Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 149–163 | Cite as

Pure possibilities and some striking scientific discoveries

  • Amihud Gilead


Regardless or independent of any actuality or actualization and exempt from spatiotemporal and causal conditions, each individual possibility is pure. Actualism excludes the existence of individual pure possibilities, altogether or at least as existing independently of actual reality. In this paper, I demonstrate, on the grounds of my possibilist metaphysics—panenmentalism—how some of the most fascinating scientific discoveries in chemistry could not have been accomplished without relying on pure possibilities and the ways in which they relate to each other (for instance, in theoretical models). The discoveries are the following: Dan Shechtman’s discovery of quasicrystals; Linus Pauling’s alpha helix; the discovery of F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario J. Molina concerning the destruction of the atmospheric ozone layer; and Neil Bartlett’s noble gas compounds. On the grounds of the analysis of these cases, actualism must fail, whereas panenmentalism gains support.


Scientific discoveries Actualism Excluding possibilities Possibilism Panenmentalism Models 



I am grateful to an anonymous referee of this journal for his or her very helpful comments. István Hargittai, in his publications and personal correspondence, contributed much to my understanding of the discoveries discussed in this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

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