Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 97–107 | Cite as

The autonomy of chemistry: old and new problems



The autonomy of chemistry and the legitimacy of the philosophy of chemistry are usually discussed in the context of the issue of reduction of chemistry to physics, and defended making use of the failure of reductionistic claims. Until quite recent times a rather widespread viewpoint was, however, that the failure of reductionistic claims concerns actually epistemological aspect of reduction only, but the ontological reduction of chemistry to physics cannot be denied. The new problems of the autonomy of chemistry in the context of reductionism seem to be ontological and metaphysical. In the present paper it is argued that there is no need for some kind of metaphysical-ontological underpinning for rejection of the secondary positions of chemistry and philosophy of chemistry with respect to physics and philosophy of physics. The issue can be elucidated in terms of the philosophy of science accepting practical realism (also known by other names).


Autonomy of chemistry Metaphysics Natural kinds Ontology Practical realism Reduction of chemistry to physics 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TartuTartuEstonia

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