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Aspects of the Concept of Potentiality in Chemistry
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9771-3469
2018 (English)In: Handbook of Potentiality / [ed] Kristina Engelhard, Michael Quante, Springer, 2018, p. 375-400Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Must potentiality be grounded in actuality? A central issue in the philosophy of chemistry, going back to Aristotle, is an instance of that very general question: when elements combine, are they actually present in the compound substance which results, or are they only potentially present, in the sense that they can be recovered on separation? Atomism down the ages has been widely understood to endorse the former view, while Aristotle famously defended the latter view, arguing that on the atomist account it is difficult to distinguish genuine chemical combination from mere juxtaposition of the elements. We examine how far, and in what respects, modern chemical theories, enriched by their interaction with physical theories such as quantum mechanics, vindicate atomism over Aristotle. Our conclusion is that the endorsement is only partial: modern chemistry agrees that elements survive in compounds, but must reject the atomist assumption that, when elements are ‘regenerated’ from a compound, the portions of matter that result can be identified with those that constituted the elements before combination.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2018. p. 375-400
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Theoretical Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-163963DOI: 10.1007/978-94-024-1287-1_15ISBN: 978-94-024-1285-7 (print)ISBN: 978-94-024-1287-1 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-163963DiVA, id: diva2:1277430
Available from: 2019-01-10 Created: 2019-01-10 Last updated: 2019-01-11Bibliographically approved

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