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Elements, Compounds, and Other Chemical Kinds

Robin Findlay Hendry
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 73, No. 5, Proceedings of the 2004 Biennial Meeting of The Philosophy of Science AssociationPart II: Symposia PapersEdited by Miriam Solomon (December 2006), pp. 864-875
DOI: 10.1086/518745
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/518745
Page Count: 12
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Elements, Compounds, and Other Chemical Kinds
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Abstract

In this article I assess the problems and prospects of a microstructural approach to chemical substances. Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam famously claimed that to be gold is to have atomic number 79 and to be water is to be H2O. I relate the first claim 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 under some interpretations. I sketch a response to this problem.

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