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Elements, compounds and other chemical kinds.

Hendry, R. F. (2006) 'Elements, compounds and other chemical kinds.', Philosophy of science., 73 (5). pp. 864-875.


In this paper I assess the problems and prospects of a microstructural approach to chemical substances. Kripke and Putnam famously claimed that (a) to be gold is to have atomic number 79, and (b) to be water is to be H2O. I relate (a) to the concept of element in the history of chemistry, arguing that the reference of element names is determined by atomic number. Compounds are more difficult: water is so complex and heterogeneous at the molecular level that ‘water is H2O’ seems false. I sketch a response to this problem.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Chemical substances, Natural kinds, Essentialism.
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Publisher statement:© 2006 by the Philosophy of Science Association
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:28 July 2008
Date of first online publication:December 2006
Date first made open access:No date available

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