A critique of Weisberg’s view on the periodic table and some speculations on the nature of classifications Authors
First Online: 26 July 2012 DOI:
Cite this article as: Scerri, E.R. Found Chem (2012) 14: 275. doi:10.1007/s10698-012-9164-y
This article carefully analyzes a recent paper by Weisberg in which it is claimed that when Mendeleev discovered the periodic table he was not working as a modeler but instead as a theorist. I argue that Weisberg is mistaken in several respects and that the periodic table should be regarded as a classification, not as a theory. In the second part of the article an attempt is made to elevate the status of classifications by suggesting that they provide a form of ‘side-ways explanation’.
This article is being reprinted from a previously published version with a different title. It originally appeared as “Who is a Theorist?”, in the journal
Eureka sobre Enseñanza y Divulgación de las Ciencias, 8(3), 231–239, 2011. I am grateful to the editor of the journal, José María Oliva Martinez, for granting me permission to reprint it here. The first oral version of the paper was given at the Oxford Conference which forms the basis of this special issue. References
Cartwright, N.: The Dappled World. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1999)
Gordin, M.: A Well-Ordered Thing. Basic Books, Cambridge (2004)
Levine, I.N.: Quantum chemistry, 4th edn. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ (1991)
McLaughlin, B.: The Rise and Fall of British Emergentism. In: Beckerman, A., Flohr, H., Kim, J. (eds.) Emergence or Reduction? Essays on the Prospect of a NonreductivePhysicalism, pp. 49–93. de Gruyter, Berlin (1992)
Noble, D.: The Music of Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2006)
Scerri, E.: The Periodic Table, Its Story and Its Significance. Oxford University Press, New York (2007)
Shapere, D.: Scientific Theories and their Domains. In: Suppe, F. (ed.) The Structure of Scientific Theories, pp. 518–599. Illinois University Press, Urbana (1977)
Schwarz, E.: Recommended questions on the road towards a scientific explanation of the periodic system of the chemical elements with the help of concepts of quantum physics. Found. Chem.
, 139–188 (2007)
Weisberg, M.: Who is a modeler? Br. J. Philos. Sci.
, 207–233 (2008)
CrossRef Copyright information
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012