Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 101–115 | Cite as

Causal concepts in chemical vernaculars

Article

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.

Keywords

Hume Kant Causality Powerful particular Regularity Events Agency 

References

  1. Boyle, R.: The Sceptical Chymist. Davis, Oxford (1661)Google Scholar
  2. Boyle, R.: The Origine of Formes and Qualities. Davis, Oxford (1667)Google Scholar
  3. Cartwright, N.L.: Nature’s Capacities and their Measurement. Oxford University Press, New York (1989)Google Scholar
  4. Gilbert, W.: De Magnete. Basic Books, New York (1958[1600])Google Scholar
  5. Harré, R., Madden, E.H.: Causal Powers. Blackwell, Oxford (1977)Google Scholar
  6. Hinshelwood, S.C.: The Kinetics of Chemical Change in Gaseous Systems. Clarendon Press, Oxford (1933)Google Scholar
  7. Hume, D.: A Treatise of Human Nature. Oxford University Press, New York (2007[1739–1740])Google Scholar
  8. Hume, D.: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford University Press, New York (2007[1777])Google Scholar
  9. Kant, E.: The Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis (1970[1786]) Google Scholar
  10. Kant, E.: Critique of Pure Reason. Penguin, London (2007[1787])Google Scholar
  11. Lavoisier, A.L.: Elements of Chemistry. Trans R. Kerr. Creech, Edinburgh (1796)Google Scholar
  12. Lavoisier, A.L.: Traité Elementaire de la Chimie. In: Oeuvres de Lavoisier. Imprimie Imperiale, Paris (1834)Google Scholar
  13. Leibniz, G.: Monodology. Pittsburgh University Press, Pittsburgh (1991[1714])Google Scholar
  14. Mackie, J.L.: The Cement of the Universe. Clarendon Press, Oxford (1974)Google Scholar
  15. Mellor, D.H.: The Facts of Causation. Routledge, London (1998)Google Scholar
  16. Trost, B.M., Malhotra, S., Mino, T., Rajapakra, N.C.: Desymmetrization of 2-alkyl- and 2-aryle-1,3-proppanediols with zinc based enzyme. Chem. Eur. J. 14, 7648–7657 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Van’Hoff, J.: Nobel address. In: Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1901–1924. Elsevier, Amsterdam (1907)Google Scholar
  18. Van’t Hoff, J.: The function of osmotic pressure in the analogy between solutions and gases. Proc. Phys. Soc. Lond. 9, 307–334 (1887)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. von Liebig, J.: Animal Chemistry. Trans. ed. by W. Gregory. Taylor and Walton, London (1842)Google Scholar
  20. Wallace, W.A.: Causality and Scientific Explanation. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor (1972–1974)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Georgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations