Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 65-95

First online:

Why are Chemists ‘Turned Off’ by Philosophy of Science?

  • Robert J. GoodAffiliated withDepartment of Chemical Engineering, State University of New York at Buffalo

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The most immediate reason why chemists are unenthusiastic about the philosophy of science is the historic hostility of important philosophers, to the concept of atoms. (Without atoms, discovery in chemistry would have proceeded with glacial slowness, if at all, in the last 200 years.) Other important reasons include the anti-realist influence of the philosophical dogmas of logical positivism, instrumentalism, of strict empiricism. Though (as has been said) these doctrines have recently gone out of fashion, they are still very influential.

A diagram of the methodology of experimental research is proposed, in the form of a flow sheet, with feedback. The model is developed as a multi-level expansion of a diagram of the hypothetico-deductive model. It recognizes that strong mutual support, or interlocking, of research endeavors is important, at the underlying level of levels where explanatory causation contributes to scientific understanding. (Mutual support at the laboratory level is generally weak or trivial.) The multiplicity of explanatory levels, and the interlocking, point to solutions to some well-known problems, such as the origin of the hypotheses, and even a resolution to the underdetermination problem.