Chapter ID: CBB443182417

Referring to Chemical Elements and Compounds: Colorless Airs in Late-Eighteenth-Century Chemical Practice (2020)


How do we refer to chemical substances, and in particular to chemical elements? This question relates to many philosophical questions, including whether or not theories are incommensurable, the extent to which past theories are later discarded, and issues about scientific realism. This chapter considers the first explicit reference to types of colorless air in late-eighteenth-century chemical practice. Reference to a gas by one chemist was generally intended to give others epistemological, methodological, and practical access to the gas. This chapter proposes a causal-descriptive theory of reference for chemical substances. Implications for debates about incommensurability and realism are also briefly noted.

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Authors & Contributors
Ghibaudi, Elena
Scerri, Eric R.
Mahootian, Farzad
Roletto, Ezio
Regis, Alberto
Llored, Jean-Pierre
Substantia: An International Journal of the History of Chemistry
The Chemical Educator
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Foundations of Chemistry
Oxford University Press
University of Chicago Press
Chemical elements
Terminology and nomenclature
Mendeleev, Dmitri Ivanovich
Lavoisier, Antoine Laurent
Kant, Immanuel
Dalton, John
Paneth, Friedrich Adolf
Cassirer, Ernst
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century
21st century
Great Britain
International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
Royal Society of London

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