Skip to main content

Substance versus Reactions

Image result for Joachim Schummer

I have now and then wondered, as my mind wandered, whether there can properly be said to be such a creature as the "philosophy of chemistry."

Biology has philosophical controversies specific to itself: the explication of the concept of natural selection for example, or the age-old reductionism-versus-holism thing.

Physics, likewise, has its own philosophical controversies. Indeed, much that goes by the name "philosophy of science" seems actually to be a philosophy of physics.The nature of space and time. Statistical mechanics, etc.

But chemistry? Wouldn't any effort to assign specific philosophical controversies to chemistry inevitably veer in one or the other of those directions? So I mused.

But it appears there really is a "philosophy of chemistry." Philosophers working this field debate whether chemistry is the study of substances or reactions -- stuff or events. In the words of Joachim Schummer, "Substance philosophers define a chemical reaction by the change of certain substances, whereas process philosophers define a substance by its characteristic chemical reactions."

Schummer is, as they say, "outstanding in his field." As the above photo illustrates!

My musings will have to find different queries hereafter. 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Great Chain of Being

One of the points that Lovejoy makes in the book of that title I mentioned last week is the importance, in the Neo-Platonist conceptions and in the later development of the "chain of being" metaphor, of what he calls the principle of plenitude. This is the underlying notion that everything that can exist must exist, that creation would not be possible at all were it to leave gaps.

The value of this idea for a certain type of theodicy is clear enough.

This caused theological difficulties when these ideas were absorbed into Christianity.  I'll quote a bit of what Lovejoy has to say about those difficulties:

"For that conception, when taken over into Christianity, had to be accommodated to very different principles, drawn from other sources, which forbade its literal interpretation; to carry it through to what seemed to be its necessary implications was to be sure of falling into one theological pitfall or another."

The big pitfalls were: determinism on the on…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.



We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…