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Patching Physics and Chemistry Together

Robert C. Bishop
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 72, No. 5, Proceedings of the 2004 Biennial Meeting of The Philosophy of Science AssociationPart I: Contributed PapersEdited by Miriam Solomon (December 2005), pp. 710-722
DOI: 10.1086/508109
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/508109
Page Count: 13
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Patching Physics and Chemistry Together
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Abstract

The “usual story” regarding molecular chemistry is that it is roughly an application of quantum mechanics. That is to say, quantum mechanics supplies everything necessary and sufficient, both ontologically and epistemologically, to reduce molecular chemistry to quantum mechanics. This is a reductive story, to be sure, but a key explanatory element of molecular chemistry, namely molecular structure, is absent from the quantum realm. On the other hand, typical characterizations of emergence, such as the unpredictability or inexplicability of molecular structure based on quantum mechanics, do not characterize the relationship between molecular chemistry and quantum mechanics well either. A different scheme for characterizing reduction and emergence is proposed that accommodates the relationship between quantum mechanics and molecular chemistry and some initial objections to the scheme are considered.

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