, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 101-115
Date: 15 Jul 2010

Causal concepts in chemical vernaculars

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Abstract

Though causality seems to have a natural place in chemical thought, the analysis of the underlying causal concepts requires attention to two different research styles. In Part One I attempt a classification and critical analysis of several philosophical accounts of causal concepts which appear to be very diverse. I summarize this diversity which ranges from causality as displayed in regular concomitances of types of events to causality as the activity of agents. Part Two is concerned with the analysis of contrasting chemical discourses, comparing the classical atomist style of Boyle, and Lavoisier and von Liebig with the later energeticist style of van’t Hoff and Hinshelwood. In detail different clusters of causal concepts can be abstracted from these discursive styles, yet they all approximate the Realist format for causal discourse. By way of summary I make an attempt to map the vernacular distinctions of Part Two onto the philosophical territory of Part One. The argument is rounded off with a brief analysis of a chemical publication of 2008.