Philosophy of chemistry and the image of science

Foundations of Science 12 (3):223-234 (2007)
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Abstract

The philosophical analysis of chemistry has advanced at such a pace during the last dozen years that the existence of philosophy of chemistry as an autonomous discipline cannot be doubted any more. The present paper will attempt to analyse the experience of philosophy of chemistry at the, so to say, meta-level. Philosophers of chemistry have especially stressed that all sciences need not be similar to physics. They have tried to argue for chemistry as its own type of science and for a pluralistic understanding of science in general. However, when stressing the specific character of chemistry, philosophers do not always analyse the question ‘What is science?’ theoretically. It is obvious that a ‘monistic’ understanding of science should not be based simply on physics as the epitome of science, regarding it as a historical accident that physics has obtained this status. The author’s point is that the philosophical and methodological image of science should not be chosen arbitrarily; instead, it should be theoretically elaborated as an idealization (theoretical model) substantiated on the historical practice of science. It is argued that although physics has, in a sense, justifiably obtained the status of a paradigm of science, chemistry, which is not simply a physical science, but a discipline with a dual character, is also relevant for elaborating a theoretical model of science. The theoretical model of science is a good tool for examining various issues in philosophy of chemistry as well as in philosophy of science or science studies generally.

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