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Microstructure without Essentialism: A New Perspective on Chemical Classification

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


Recently, macroscopic accounts of chemical kind individuation have been proposed as alternatives to the microstructural essentialist account advocated by Kripke, Putnam, and others. These accounts argue that individuation of chemical kinds is based on macroscopic criteria such as reactivity or thermodynamics, and they challenge the essentialism that grounds the Kripke-Putnam view. Using a variety of chemical examples, I argue that microstructure grounds these macroscopic accounts, but that this grounding need not imply essentialism. Instead, kinds are individuated on the basis of similarity of reactivity between substances, and microstructure explains similarity of reactivity.

Research Article
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Many thanks to John Norton, Robert Batterman, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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