According to microessentialism, it is necessary to resort to microstructure in order to adequately characterise chemical substances such as water. But the thesis has never been properly supported by argument. Kripke and Putnam, who originally proposed the thesis, suggest that a so-called stereotypical characterisation is not possible, whereas one in terms of microstructure is. However, the sketchy outlines given of stereotypical descriptions hardly support the impossibility claim. On the other hand, what naturally stands in contrast to microscopic description is description (...) in macroscopic terms, and macroscopic characterisations of water are certainly possible. This suffices to counter the claim that microdescriptions are necessary. Whether it counters the impossibility claim depends on whether all macroscopic descriptions are stereotypical (stereotypical descriptions presumably being macroscopic). In so far as systematic import of “stereotypical” can be determined, it would seem not. But some macroscopic characterisations have definite affinity with everyday knowledge, which presumably stands in conflict with the spirit of the impossibility claim. Since what is characterised are properties expressed by predicates like “is water”, the necessity of identity has no bearing here, and matters of interpretation pose problems for claims to the effect that science fixes the extension of “water” as ordinarily understood. (shrink)
What are the criteria determining the individuation of chemical kinds? Recent philosophical discussion, which puts too much emphasis on microstructure, seems to presuppose a reductionist conception not motivated by the scientific facts. The present article traces the development of the traditional notion of a substance with the rise of modern chemistry from the end of the 18th century with a view to correcting this speculative distortion.
Despite all the criticism showered on Nagel’s classic account of reduction, it meets a fundamental desideratum in an analysis of reduction that is difficult to question, namely of providing for a proper identification of the reducing theory. This is not clearly accommodated in radically different accounts. However, the same feature leads me to question Nagel’s claim that the reducing theory can be separated from the putative bridge laws, and thus to question his notion of heterogeneous reduction. A further corollary to (...) the requirement that all the necessary conditions be incorporated in an adequate formulation of the putative reducing theory is that the standard example of gas temperature is not reducible to average molecular kinetic energy. As originally conceived, Nagel’s conception of reduction takes no account of approximate reasoning and this failure has certainly restricted its applicability, perhaps to the point of making it unrealistic as a model of reduction in science. I suggest approximation can be accommodated by weakening the original requirement of deduction without jeopardizing the fundamental desideratum. Finally, I turn to briefly consider the idea sometimes raised of the ontological reducibility of chemistry. (shrink)
In this article we critically evaluate Robin Le Poidevin's recent attempt to set out an argument for the ontological reduction of chemistry independently of intertheoretic reduction. We argue, firstly, that the argument he envisages applies only to a small part of chemistry, and that there is no obvious way to extend it. We argue, secondly, that the argument cannot establish the reduction of chemistry, properly so called.
In a recent critique of the doctrine of emergentism championed by its classic advocates up to C. D. Broad, Jaegwon Kim (Philosophical Studies 63:31–47, 1999) challenges their view about its applicability to the sciences and proposes a new account of how the opposing notion of reduction should be understood. Kim is critical of the classic conception advanced by Nagel and uses his new account in his criticism of emergentism. I question his claims about the successful reduction achieved in the sciences (...) and argue that his new account has not improved on Nagel’s and that the critique of emergentism he bases on it is question-begging in important respects. (shrink)
Two inter-linked theses are defended in this paper. One is the Duhemian theme that a rigid distinction between physical and chemical properties cannot be upheld. Duhem maintained this view not because the latter are reducible to the former, but because if physics is to remain consistent with chemistry it must prove possible to expand it to accommodate new features, and a rigid distinction would be a barrier to this process. The second theme is that naturally occurring isotopic variants of water (...) are in fact distinct substances, and naturally occurring samples of water are mixtures of these substances. For most practical purposes it is convenient to treat protium oxide, deuterium oxide, and so on, as the same chemical substance, but to insist on this as a matter of principle would stand in conflict with the first thesis. (shrink)
This paper takes up issues related to the notion of chemical substances arising from their mereological and modal features. Related notions are elements and compounds, into which substances are sub-divided, and the general notion of mixture, which as a special case might involve several substances, but covers other cases too. These are essentially macroscopic concepts. Some of the chemical arguments for this claim have been presented elsewhere. The present paper is a metaphysical treatment of matter as categorised by the major (...) chemical concepts bearing on distinctions between homogeneous and heterogeneous matter, and between a single and several substances. (shrink)
This undergraduate textbook introduces some fundamental issues in philosophy of science for students of philosophy and science students. The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 deals with knowledge and values. Chap. 1 presents the classical conception of knowledge as initiated by the ancient Greeks and elaborated during the development of science, introducing the central concepts of truth, belief and justification. Aspects of the quest for objectivity are taken up in the following two chapters. Moral issues are broached in (...) Chap. 4, which discusses some aspects of the use and abuse of science, taking up the responsibilities of scientists in properly conducting their business and decision-makers in their concerns with the import of science for society. Part 2 contrasts the view of scientific progress as the rejecting of old hypotheses and theories and replacing them with new ones, represented by Karl Popper, with the conception of progress as accumulating knowledge, saving as much as possible from older theories, represented by Pierre Duhem. A concluding chapter defends the natural attitude of taking the theories of modern science to be literally true, i.e. realism, in the face of arguments drawn partly from the history of scientific progress in criticism of this stance. (shrink)
A logic of intervals is proposed akin to the one published by Hamblin (Hamblin (1969) and (1971)). Like Hamblin's, the present system is also based on a single primitive. However, the work presented here differs from Hamblin's in a number of respects. Most importantly, the present system is explicitly based on mereological ideas in such a way that not only are the two notions of abutment and temporal order involved in Hamblin's primitive two-place relation "abuts at the earlier end" distinguished (...) ; the temporal ordering itself is built up from a symmetric mereological primitive. The present system is shown to be complete. (shrink)
Duhem is often described as an anti-realist or instrumentalist. A contrary view has recently been expressed by Martin (1991) (Pierre Duhem: Philosophy and History in the Work of a Believing Physicist (La Salle, IL: Open Court)), who suggests that this interpretation makes it difficult to understand the vantage point from which Duhem argues in La science allemande (1915) that deduction, however impeccable, cannot establish truths unless it begins with truths. In the same spirit, the present paper seeks to establish that (...) Duhem is at any rate not the kind of anti-realist he is often presented as being, and that his views are like those Quine sees fit to call realist. An interpretation of Duhem's views on explanation and precision in science, and their bearing on the epistemological status of theory, is advanced which leads naturally into his critique of conventionalism. His attitude towards atomism, which should not be judged from a post-1925 perspective, is considered part of the unified view he strove after and appropriately called Duhem's physicalism, standing in contrast to the kind of reductionist conception usually associated with atomism. (shrink)
Chemistry is the study of the structure and transformation of matter. When Aristotle founded the field in the 4th century BCE, his conceptual grasp of the nature of matter was tailored to accommodate a relatively simple range of observable phenomena. In the 21st century, chemistry has become the largest scientific discipline, producing over half a million publications a year ranging from direct empirical investigations to substantial theoretical work. However, the specialized interest in the conceptual issues arising in chemistry, hereafter Philosophy (...) of Chemistry, is a relatively recent addition to philosophy of science. Philosophy of chemistry has two major parts. In the first, conceptual issues arising within chemistry are carefully articulated and analyzed. Such questions which are internal to chemistry include the nature of substance, atomism, the chemical bond, and synthesis. In the second, traditional topics in philosophy of science such as realism, reduction, explanation, confirmation, and modeling are taken up within the context of chemistry. (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal (Foundations of Chemistry, 7 (2005), 125–148) Lombardi and Labarca call into question a thesis of ontological reduction to which several writers on reduction subscribe despite rejecting a thesis of epistemological reduction. Lombardi and Labarca advocate instead a pluralistic ontology inspired by Putnam’s internal realism. I suggest that it is not necessary to go so far, and that a more critical view of the ontological reduction espoused by the authors they criticise circumvents the need (...) to resort to their radical alternative. (shrink)
‘Water is H 2 O’ is naturally construed as an equivalence. What are the things to which the two predicates ‘is water’ and ‘is H 2 O’ apply? The equivalence presupposes that substance properties are distinguished from phase properties. A substance like water (H 2 O) exhibits various phases (solid, liquid, gas) under appropriate conditions, and a given (say liquid) phase may comprise several substances. What general features distinguish substance from phase properties? I tackle these questions on the basis of (...) an interpretation of a theorem of thermodynamics known as Gibbs' phase rule which systematically relates these two kinds of feature of matter. The interpretation develops the idea that the things substance and phase predicates apply to are quantities of matter which sustain mereological relations and operations and exploits these mereological features in distinguishing the two kinds of property. Gibbs' phase rule is a macroscopic principle applicable for macroscopic intervals of time. Bringing intervals of time into the picture calls for a more detailed consideration of the relation between macroscopic equilibria and the corresponding dynamic equilibria at the microlevel and throws into question the simple idea that quantities can always be regarded as collections of molecules. The account provides some insight into how the continuous, macroscopic conception of matter (‘gunk’) is reconciled with the discrete microscopic conception and illuminates the interpretation of substances present in mixtures. (shrink)
The bulk of Duhem's writing which bears on the understanding of mixtures suggests he adopted an Aristotelian position which he opposed only to the atomic view. A third view from antiquity-that of the Stoics-seems not to be taken into account. But his lines of thought are not always as explicit as could be wished. The Stoic view is considered here from a perspective which Duhem might well have adopted. This provides a background against which his somewhat unorthodox Aristotelianism might be (...) understood. (shrink)
Aristotelian ideas are presented in a favorable light in Duhem's historical works surveying the history of the notion of chemical combination (1902) and the development of mechanics (1903). The importance Duhem was later to ascribe to Aristotelian ideas as reflected in the weight he attached to medieval science is well known. But the Aristotelian influence on his own mature philosophical perspective, and more particularly on his concern for logical coherence and the development of his ontological views, is not generally acknowledged. (...) There are, however, clear pointers in this direction in these two earlier books on the history of science, which are unashamedly written in such a way as to project the author's own view of what is important in the relevant areas. Thermodynamics was the pinnacle of Duhemian science, and its interpretation requires the reinstatement, in Duhem's view, of Aristotelian conceptions which have been unfashionable since the rise of certain ideas with the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. The present paper is not primarily an exposition of these Aristotelian views of Duhem's, but an attempt to pursue the interpretation of a macroscopic, thermodynamical perspective on chemical substances from an elementary viewpoint in the spirit of Duhem (1902), sometimes being more definite than Duhem seems to be, and occasionally taking issue with him on certain points. Some of his leading ideas will determine the general approach, but views and problems will also be taken from modern textbooks in an attempt to lay down the general lines along which an explicit ontology--in Quine's sense--of macroscopic theory might be developed. (shrink)
During the 19th century atomism was a controversial issue in chemistry. It is an oversimplification to dismiss the critics' arguments as all falling under the general positivist view that what can't be seen can't be. The more interesting lines of argument either questioned whether any coherent notion of an atom had ever been formulated or questioned whether atoms were ever really given any explanatory role. At what point, and for what reasons, did atomistic hypotheses begin to explain anything in chemistry? (...) It is argued that 19th-century atomic accounts of constant proportions and isomerism had little to offer, whereas a non-atomic explanation of chemical combination was developed. Not until the turn of the century did atomism begin to do serious explanatory work in chemistry. (shrink)
The rejection of the idea that the so‐called Duhem‐Quine thesis in fact expresses a thesis upheld by either Duhem or Quine invites a more detailed comparison of their views. It is suggested that the arguments of each have a certain impact on the positions maintained by the other. In particular, Quine's development of his notion of ontological commitment is enlisted in the interpretation of Duhem's position. It is argued that this counts against the instrumentalist construal usually put on what Duhem (...) says about approximation and historical continuity. (shrink)
Late nineteenth‐century opponents of atomism questioned whether the evidence required any notion of an atom. In this spirit, Duhem developed an account of the import of chemical formulas that is clearly neutral on the atomic question rather than antiatomistic. The argument is supplemented with specific inadequacies of atomic theories of chemical combination and considerably strengthened by the theory of chemical combination provided by thermodynamics. Despite possible counterevidence available at the time, which should have tempered some of Duhem's concluding remarks, there (...) was no atomic theory of chemical combination, which is wholly a product of the twentieth century. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Stockholm, SE‐106 91 Stockholm, Sweden; e‐mail: [email protected] (shrink)
Developments in the application of quantum mechanics to the understanding of the chemical bond are traced with a view to examining the evolving conception of the covalent bond. Beginning with the first quantum mechanical resolution of the apparent paradox in Lewis’s conception of a shared electron pair bond by Heitler and London, the ensuing account takes up the challenge molecular orbital theory seemed to pose to the classical conception of the bond. We will see that the threat of delocalisation can (...) be overstated, although it is questionable whether this should be seen as reinstating the issue of the existence of the chemical bond. More salient are some recent developments in a longstanding discussion of how to understand the causal aspects of the bonding interaction—the nature of the force involved in the covalent link—which are taken up in the latter part of the paper. (shrink)
Prima facie, there are two kinds of expression used in English to make reference to time: those involving explicit mention of time and temporal ordering relations, and tenses involving no such explicit reference. Taking as a criterion of adequacy the unification of both these aspects, a systematization is proposed (owing much to Reichenbach) which provides a characterization of tenses. The theory is not based on the notion of a proposition with variable truth value which formed the cornerstone of Arthur Prior’s (...) work. His conception receives a good deal of criticism, ultimately on the ground that relativising to exactly one time is inadequate. We don’t know in advance whether or not no time of perhaps more than one time is relevant, and where this is the case, the analysis cannot be reduced to propositions true at just one time. (shrink)
The history of the hydrogen bond provides a good example of the of an important chemical concept. It illustrates the interplay between empirical and theoretical approaches to the problem of delimiting what has proved to be quite an elusive notion, with chemists whittling away at the particular sorts of case with a view to obtaining a precise, unitary concept. Even though there is a return to a more theoretically inspired notion in more recent research, empirical characterisations remain a feature of (...) the report of a Task Group recently set up by the IUPAC to reconsider the definition of the hydrogen bond, and this situation—by no means unusual for chemical concepts and principles—is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. These developments are reviewed in this paper, which includes an extended discussion of the enormous significance hydrogen bonding has for the philosopher’s standard example of a “natural kind”, water. There is little to suggest a reduction to what philosophers of physics are pleased to call fundamental principles, and the details raise further questions about what essentialists could possibly have in mind when talking about the microscopic essence of water. (shrink)
Philosophers frequently cite Dalton's chemical atomism, and its nineteenth century developments, as a prime example of inference to the best explanation. This was a controversial issue in its time. But the critics are dismissed as positivist‐inspired antirealists with no interest in explanation. Is this a reasonable assessment?
Nancy Cartwright has drawn attention to how explanations are actually given in mathematical sciences. She argues that these procedures support an antirealist thesis that fundamental explanatory laws are not true. Moreover, she claims to be be essentially following Duhem's line of thought in developing this thesis. Without wishing to detract from the importance of her observations, it is suggested that they do not necessarily require the antirealist thesis. The antirealist interpretation of Duhem is also disputed. It is argued that Duhemian (...) points, often understood antirealistically, bear a realist construal, and that antirealist interpretations of Duhem typically run into problems of consistency or of reducing his position to absurdity. (shrink)
This book is about matter. It involves our ordinary concept of matter in so far as this deals with enduring continuants that stand in contrast to the occurrents or processes in which they are involved, and concerns the macroscopic realm of middle-sized objects of the kind familiar to us on the surface of the earth and their participation in medium term processes. The emphasis will be on what science rather than philosophical intuition tells us about the world, and on chemistry (...) rather than the physics that is more usually encountered in philosophical discussions. It is the everyday science of matter characterised by differences of chemical substance that constitutes individuated macroscopic bodies of geological and biological complexity—the continuous matter of macroscopic theory and described by mass terms. -/- The discussion might be characterised as descriptive metaphysics, being content, to paraphrase Strawson’s use of the term, to describe the structure of our scientific thought about the actual world. The method in the central chapters dealing with the nature of matter will be to pursue key steps in the historical development of scientific thought about chemical substance and related concepts with a view to tracing the emergence of a systematic ontological interpretation. Aristotle’s and the Stoics’ discussions of elements and mixtures, based on a continuous view of matter, bear some resemblance to modern, macroscopic conceptions and therefore have some interest as precursors to modern views as well as being of conceptual interest in their own right. Some of the issues they raised are still reflected in modern discussions, despite the considerable increase in complexity of the subject. Other ideas, such as the intimate connection between what modern science distinguishes as substance and phase, maintained their grip on the understanding of matter until the end of the eighteenth century. These are some of the important aspects of the properties of matter that have been neglected by linguistic concerns that have dominated the recent study of mass terms and which the present study seeks to redress. It will be of interest to see how the bounds of possibility are delimited by the laws governing the appropriate use of concepts refined for the purpose of describing the behaviour of matter. But the concern with modality will not stretch to venturing into the realms of metaphysical possibility governed by philosophical speculation about individual essences and underlying natures. -/- Like many contemporary discussions of material objects, this one relies heavily on mereology. Unlike several such discussions, this one adheres to the classical principles of mereology governing the usual dyadic relations of part, overlapping, etc. and the operations of sum, product and difference. These principles apply to the mereological structure of regions of space, intervals of time, processes and quantities of matter. Material objects that gain and lose matter are not understood to gain and lose parts and don’t call for a modification of the classic dyadic mereological relations to triadic relations with the introduction of a third term referring to time. Rather, a distinction is drawn between quantities of matter, which don’t gain or lose parts over time, and individuals, which are typically constituted of different quantities of matter at different times. The proper treatment of the temporal aspect of the features of material objects is a central issue in this book. The topics falling under this heading are addressed by investigating the conditions governing the application of predicates relating time and other entities. Of particular interest here are relations between quantities of matter and times expressing substance kind, phase and mixture. (shrink)
A view of individuals as constituted of quantities of matter, both understood as continuants enduring over time, is elaborated in some detail. Constitution is a three-place relation which can't be collapsed to identity because of the place-holder for a time and because individuals and quantities of matter have such a radically different character. Individuals are transient entities with limited lifetimes, whereas quantities are permanent existents undergoing change in physical and chemical properties from time to time. Coincidence, considered as a matter (...) of occupying the same place, is developed, alongside sameness of constitutive matter, as a criterion of identity for individuals. Quantities satisfy the mereological criterion of identity, applicable to entities subject to mereological relations and operations such as regions of space and intervals of time. A time-dependent analogue of mereological parthood is defined for individuals, in terms of which analogues of the other mereological relations can be defined. But it is argued that there is no analogue of the mereological operation of summation for individuals. (shrink)
In 1904 Joachim published an influential paper dealing with 'Aristotle's Conception of Chemical Combination' which has provided the basis of much more recent studies. About the same time, Duhem developed what he regarded as an essentially Aristotelian view of chemistry, based on his understanding of phenomenological thermodynamics. He does not present a detailed textual analysis, but rather emphasises certain general ideas. Joachim's classic paper contains obscurities which I have been unable to fathom and theses which do not seem to be (...) fully explained, or which at least seem difficult for the modern reader to understand. An attempt is made here to provide a systematic account of the Aristotelian theory of the generation of substances by the mixing of elements by reconsidering Joachim's treatment in the light of the sort of points which most interested Duhem.The work described in this paper was undertaken with a view to providing a basis for presenting, evaluating and criticising Duhem's understanding of what was for him modern chemistry. This latter project will be taken up on another occasion. I hope the present paper will be of some value to a broader philosophical readership in so far as it provides a fairly clear conception of matter which might be called Aristotelian, even if it is not precisely Aristotle's, and raises certain clear problems of interpretation. It may also be of interest to historians of chemistry in suggesting an analysis of the old chemical notion of a mixt independent of atomic theories. (shrink)
New perspectives on Pierre Duhem’s The aim and structure of physical theory Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9467-3 Authors Anastasios Brenner, Department of Philosophy, Paul Valéry University-Montpellier III, Route De Mende, 34199 Montpellier cedex 5, France Paul Needham, Department of Philosophy, University of Stockholm, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden David J. Stump, Department of Philosophy, University of San Francisco, 2130 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA Robert Deltete, Department of Philosophy, Seattle University, 901 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122-1090, USA Journal Metascience (...) Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796 Journal Volume Volume 20 Journal Issue Volume 20, Number 1. (shrink)
Some points are made about substance properties in their role of introducing mass terms. In particular, two conditions of distributivity and cumulativity of mass predicates expressing these properties are not the independent pair they first appear to be. A classification of macroscopic substance concepts is developed. This needs to be complemented in some way by the introduction of a modal qualification reminiscent of Aristotle's distinction between actual and potential presence of substances in a mixture. Consideration of the latter feature has (...) prompted Joe Earley to raise the question of whether there is any salt in the sea. I try to argue that there is. (shrink)
The creators of equilibrium and irreversible thermodynamics developed a conception of processes which bears on metaphysical discussions of change, occurrents, and continuants and merits the attention of contemporary analytic metaphysicians. It concerns the macroscopic domain, from which metaphysicians normally take their examples, and is unjustly ignored on the grounds that it is not ‘fundamental science’. Why this often-voiced view should disqualify just thermodynamics, and not the broad range of considerations normally raised, is a moot point. But even if there were (...) an adequate reductive argument, that wouldn’t eliminate the ontological claims. It is argued that processes cannot be defined as changes in the state of enduring objects, but should be considered autonomous entities. The relational character of processes involving several continuants is developed, alongside their mereological features and their relation to space and time. Some aspects of the historical development of the notions of reversible and irreversible processes in thermodynamics are taken up in the course of the discussion, but the paper is not concerned with the mathematical foundations of equilibrium and irreversible thermodynamics. 1 Introduction2 Change3 Distinguishing Processes from States4 Causings5 The Relational Character and Mereological Structure of Processes6 Concluding Comments. (shrink)
ABSTRACT The idea that the extension of a chemical substance is fixed by determining what stands in the relation of being the same substance to a paradigm sample plays a substantial role in chemistry, and procedures of identification that don’t make direct use of the method can be traced back to ones that do. But paradigm samples are not typically selected by ostension, as in Putnam’s version of this procedure. The relevance of ostension is questioned after a discussion of the (...) establishment of paradigm specimens in the analysis of some contents of crude oil and an examination of the general features of the same-substance relation that takes into account the temporal dependency and the consequent role of characteristic features of substances. 1Introduction 2Some Formal Properties of the Same-Substance Relation 3Characteristic Properties and Paradigm Samples 4Naming Substances Old and New 5Some Points of Comparison with Temperature 6Summary and Conclusion. (shrink)
An exposition of Pierre Duhem’s formulation of the structure of chemical substances as expressed by their formulas is given, presenting it as a development of his essentially Aristotelian view of mixtures. Duhem’s masterly development of the subject displays an eye for logical clarity familiar from his work in thermodynamics but applied here to the extraction of what he regarded as true from the history of chemistry. Though no longer defensible, the account has a conceptual interest in its own right and (...) illuminates a less frequently discussed side of Duhem’s views. (shrink)
In the course of developing his theory of what would now be called chemical substance, Aristotle introduces what appear to be two distinct definitions of element alongside his notion of mixt (homogeneous mixture). The present paper is concerned with the integration of these ideas in a uniform theory, which calls for some speculation about the import of elemental proportions in compounds.
Davidson's account of singular causal statements as expressing relations between events together with his views on event identity lead to inferences involving causal statements which many of his critics find counterintuitive. These are sometimes said to be avoided on Kim's view of events, in terms of which this line of criticism is often formulated. It is argued that neither Davidson nor Kim offer a satisfactory account of events — an essential prerequisit for the relational theory — and an account of (...) singular causal statements in terms of a modal sentential connective is advocated in place of the relational view. Such an account suffices to block the counterintuitive inferences without needing to resort to a theory of events. It is suggested that a theory of events might be built upon a connective account of singular causal statements, but no such theory is presented here. (shrink)
I criticize the treatment of natural kinds as some sort of object, advocated in a recent paper by Alexander Bird. The arguments he gives for regimenting an illustrative statement featuring chemical kinds in his preferred manner are not conclusive, and his criticisms of an alternative strategy involving universally quantified sentences fail. This is important because of the widespread but poorly supported assumption that expressions of natural kinds should be treated as singular referring terms.
Bodies as conceived in macroscopic theories are loosely spoken of as participating in processes. But are there any systematic reasons for regarding processes as part of the ontology of macroscopic theory? The present paper suggests that suitable motivation can be found within a project of describing a phenomenological, macroscopic ontology for equilibrium thermodynamics, and outlines some aspects of the interrelation between continuant bodies and processes.
This paper traces the principal thematic developments in Aristotle’s conception of chemical substance as they bear on the evolution of the notion into modern times. A line of speculation is indicated about the interpretation of elemental proportions clearly raised by Aristotle’s discussion but not pursued in his extant writings. Apart from its historical interest, Aristotle’s discussion of substance and mixture has been taken up in contemporary systematic philosophy (Fine 1995), where it is treated as at best only relevant to ordinary, (...) everyday views. This approach gains support from the contention that such views have been superseded by the molecular conception of chemical substance developed in 19th century science and extolled by advocates of the Kripke-Putnam conception of microessentialism (Kripke 1980, Putnam 1975). Duhem (1902), who well understood what would now be called the macroscopic theory of thermodynamics and its relevance to chemistry, had a different view, and the present discussion is much influenced by him. Certainly, Aristotle’s view stands in need of modification in the light of the understanding of mixtures provided by Gibbs’ phase rule (Gibbs 1948). But with a certain weakening, a central Aristotelian claim about mixtures still has some bearing. (shrink)
From a modern point of view, compounds are contrasted with elements of which they are composed, and the two categories combine to give the category of substances. Mixtures, on the other hand, might be understood to contrast with pure substances (substances in isolation), so that mixtures are quantities of matter containing several substances (be they compounds or uncombined elements) whereas pure substances are understood to be quantities of matter exhausting the material contents of a region of space which contain only (...) one substance, and might be either a compound or an element. But heterogeneous quantities of matter (comprising several phases) might also be understood to be mixtures. Thus, it is common to speak of a mixture of ice, liquid water and water vapour in equilibrium at the triple point of water, although there is only a single substance present. The general concept of mixture as treated by Gibbs’ phase rule is a quantity of matter comprising either several substances or several phases, “or” being used in the inclusive sense. Gibbs’ phase rule is a relatively recent development in the history of the concept of chemical substance, dating from the latter half of the nineteenth century. The concepts and distinctions it presupposes have not always been apparent. I trace some of the important conceptual developments underlying the important distinctions at issue here from Aristotle, who didn’t distinguish either substance and phase, or what are now called compounds and solutions. (shrink)
Chemistry builds on distinctions of substance, which presupposes that matter can be divided into substances and compared with other matter and itself on different occasions as being of the same substance. Even identifying a quantity of matter as comprising a single substance presupposes the same substance relation, it being a quantity all of whose spatial parts are the same substance. But criteria of purity have been important for isolating substances and investigating their characteristic properties, which can in turn be used (...) for establishing sameness of substance. With the development of chemistry into a theoretical science it became important that such criteria and characteristics should have a systematic theoretical basis. Thermodynamics was, perhaps, the first comprehensive theory to systematically divide the mass of the bodies with which it deals into distinct substances and offer general criteria governing the number of substances present. But the applicability of such macroscopic criteria is restricted to equilibrium conditions on a macroscopic time scale. They can be compared with microscopic conceptions of molecular structure, with which they have been complemented—some would say superseded. Since many substances are not molecular, however, the general formulation of a microscopic sameness of substance criterion remains unclear. (shrink)
Eric Scerri has proposed an account of how reduction might be understood in chemistry. He claims to build on a general aspect of Popper's views which survives his otherwise heavy criticism, namely adherence to actual scientific practice. This is contrasted with Nagel's conception, which Scerri takes to be the philosopher's standard notion. I argue that his proposal, interesting though it is, is not so foreign to ideas in the tradition within which Nagel wrote as Scerri would have us believe. Moreover, (...) actual scientific practice can be commandeered in support of a holistic conception which Popper contrasted with what he saw as the admirable strivings towards reduction in science. (shrink)
The Aristotelian distinction between actual and potential presence of a substance in a mixture forms part of a conception of mixture which stands in contrast to atomist and Stoic theories as propounded by the ancients. But the central ideas on which these theories are built need not be combined and opposed to one another in precisely the ways envisaged by these ancient theories. This is well illustrated by Duhem, who maintained the Aristotelian idea that the original ingredients are only potentially, (...) and not actually, present in a mixture, but who sided with the Stoics and against Aristotle on the possibility of co-occupancy. I have argued that the Stoic theory cannot dispense with some such notion as the Aristotelian conception of potentiality in allowing the elements to be actually present in a mixture. Here I suggest that some such Aristotelian notion must be at work in a more modern atomic conception of matter if this is to allow elemental substances to be actually present in compounds, which I think is how compounds are usually understood. Analogous issues arise regarding the status of solutions and their components. (shrink)
This is a translation of some of Duhem's earlier papers on thermodynamics: Study of the thermodynamic works of J. Willard Gibbs (1887) Commentary on the Principles of thermodynamics, I (1892), II (1893) and iii (1894).
Chemistry deals with substances and their transformations. School chemistry provides a picture of this in terms of small balls called atoms and ball-and-stick structures called molecules which, despite its crudity, has been taken to justifiably reflect a reductionist conception of macroscopic concepts like the chemical substances and chemical reactions. But with the recent interest in chemistry within the philosophy of science, an extensive and determined criticism has developed of the idea that the macroscopic world has been, or is likely to (...) be, reduced to microscopic theory. From this perspective, it is of interest to see macroscopic ontology treated autonomously. I try to take a first few steps towards spelling this out. It involves recognising entities falling into two broad categories: continuants-things which can have different properties at different times — and processes — things whose temporal parts may have different features, but which themselves stand in contrast to continuants in this respect. The character of each and their interrelations depends on their mereological structure of parts, the exploration of which is one of the prime purposes of the paper. (shrink)