A matter of substance? Gaston Bachelard on chemistry's philosophical lessons

Chimisso, Cristina (2013). A matter of substance? Gaston Bachelard on chemistry's philosophical lessons. In: Galavotti, Maria Carla; Nemeth, Elisabeth and Stadler, Friederich eds. European Philosophy of Science - Philosophy of Science in Europe and the Viennese Heritage. Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook, 17. Springer, pp. 33–44.


Chemistry has played a greater role in the French philosophy of science than in other philosophical traditions; Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent has argued that the attention that Duhem, Meyerson, Metzger and Bachelard paid to chemistry had a profound impact on their philosophies, which as a consequence share concerns and views of science, despite their differences. Cristina Chimisso investigates the philosophical importance of chemistry within the French tradition by focussing on the significance of chemistry for some crucial aspects of the philosophy of Bachelard. I shall focus on the specific lessons that chemistry affords philosophy according to Bachelard, in particular concerning the role of analysis and synthesis in the development of knowledge, the concept of substance, and the concept of scientific object. Bachelard shared his focus on chemistry with other philosophers, and yet he ‘learned’ quite different lessons from it than for instance Meyerson. Chimisso argues that philosophers, just like scientists, construct their own object (e.g. history of chemistry) and that they do so differently. I shall briefly outline some of the philosophical ideas that contributed to Bachelard’s construction of his own philosophical objects.

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