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Reducing Chemistry to Physics. Limits, Models, Consequences

Abstract of Dissertation by Hinne Hettema

My research focuses on the elucidation of our understanding of the inter-theory relationships between theories of physics and theories of chemistry. This thesis also considers the related topic of the unity of science. I conclude that the inter-theoretical relations can be classified as reduction relationships, provided the concept of reduction is understood fairly liberally. In this way the thesis also focuses on the further characterisation of the concept of reduction itself.

In this thesis, theories are considered in the structuralist approach to theories. The inter-theory relationships in this context are structural relationships. The further characterisation of the structural relationship takes place by the detailed consideration of two specific chemical theories: the periodic table of the elements and the theory of the chemical bond. The last part of the thesis focuses in more detail on the subject of chemical ontology and chemical objects.

The conclusions of this thesis have interesting implications for how philosophers of science should treat theories from chemistry: it appears that these theories consist of a kind of patchwork of different theoretical approaches. That conclusion is somewhat surprising for an exact science like chemistry, and provides new material for the relatively young field of philosophy of chemistry.

PhD Defense: 13 December 2012

Last modified:26 November 2012 5.15 p.m.