Paul Needham är professor i Teoretisk filosofi
Paul Needham is Professor in Theoretical Philosophy

Relating large and small in chemical ontology

Description: Building on my previous work, I intend to continue my investigations into the area of philosophy of science concerned with chemistry and the metaphysical roots of chemistry. One issue concerns the relation between macroscopic bodies and microentities of the quantum world. This is problematic because the former but not the latter (on an articulation of the standard interpretation of indistinguishability due to French and Krause that I follow) are subject to the general logical principles of identity. This in turn creates a problem for understanding how microentities can figure as parts of, or constitute, macroentities because the standard theories of parthood (mereology) and constitution presuppose identity criteria. I propose to develop an analogue of mereology facilitating the definition of an analogue of the summation operation and a constitution relation between macro- and micro-objects. A second line of investigation concerns the nature of chemical bonding and its bearing on philosophical issues such as the preservation of reference through theory change and the nature and role of modality in variational principles figuring in the discussion. Both issues are relevant for the relation between macro- and micro-interpretations of the “same substance” relation underlying distinctions of chemical kinds. And several detailed questions arise about the interpretation of the modality and the status of macroscopic theory as immune to the vicissitudes of microtheory.

For questions regarding the project, please contact Paul Needham (