Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 215–233 | Cite as

Similarity and representation in chemical knowledge practices

  • Juan Bautista Bengoetxea
  • Oliver Todt
  • José Luis Luján


This paper argues for the theoretical and practical validity of similarity as a useful epistemological tool in scientific knowledge generation, specifically in chemistry. Classical analyses of similarity in philosophy of science do not account for the concept’s practical significance in scientific activities. We recur to examples from chemistry to counter the claim of authors like Quine or Goodman to the effect that similarity must be excluded from scientific practices (as well as their philosophical analysis). In conclusion we argue that more recent conceptualizations of the notion of similarity, particularly Giere’s one, are appropriate for a philosophical analysis that considers scientific practices on equal terms with scientific theory.


Chemistry Similarity Representation Model Scientific practices Regulatory science 



The authors would like to thank the Spanish Government’s State Secretary of Research, Development and Innovation (research projects La explicación basada en mecanismos en la evaluación de riesgos, FFI2010-20227/FISO, and La evaluación de beneficios como ciencia reguladora, FFI2013-42154), as well as the European Commission’s European Regional Development Fund (FEDER) program, for their support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Bautista Bengoetxea
    • 1
  • Oliver Todt
    • 1
  • José Luis Luján
    • 1
  1. 1.University of the Balearic IslandsPalmaSpain

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