THE DIALECTICS OF THE CORRELATION OF CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS

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Transliteration of original Title: 
Problema reduktsii khimii k fizike: dialektika vs. analiticheskaya filosofiya
Author(s): 
Alexander Pechenkin
Department of Methodology of Science, Philosophical Faculty of Lomonosov Moscow State University
Issue number: 
No. 2 (Vol. 40)
Pages: 
157-173
Abstract: 

In the Russian philosophy the problem of the reduction of chemistry to physics has been traditionally treated from the point of view of the concept “the form of motion of matter”. In the long run this position is tautological: chemistry studies chemical phenomena. The present article treats the problem of the reduction of chemistry to physics by basing on the concepts of the contemporary analytical philosophy: – “hypothetico-deductive theory”, “the ontological reduction”, “the scientific realism”. Our analysis is not talking about how nature works, but allows us to clarify the structure of scientific knowledge. The classical scheme of the reduction of the theories was proposed by Ernst Nagel in his classical book “The structure of science”. Nagel takes the reduction as a deduction of the reduced theory on the base of more fundamental theory. This procedure requests the formulation of the “rules of correspondence” which connect the terminology of the reduced theory to the theory which provides the basis of deduction. According to the Nagel scheme the reduction of the chemical theory of the bond and valence to quantum mechanics is a deduction. However, the real situation in quantum chemistry is more complicated. To clarify the situation the present author invites Quine’s concept of ontological reduction. The reduction taken as a deduction does not necessarily imply the ontological reduction of the basic concepts of the reduced theory. The problem of the reduction of the chemical theory of the bond and valence to quantum mechanics is also connected with the debates about the epistemological status of approximations used in quantum chemistry. For example, do the atoms implied by the computational methods really exist in a molecule? These debates can be clarified with the help of the controversy “scientific realism – instrumentalism”.

Keywords: 
philosophy of science, reduction, chemistry, physics, scientific realism.
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