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Structure as abstraction

Hendry, R.F.

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In this article I argue that structure in chemistry is a creature of abstraction: attending selectively to structural similarities, we neglect differences. There are different ways to abstract, so abstraction is interest dependent. So is structure. First, there are two different and mutually irreducible notions of structure in chemistry: bond structure and geometrical structure. Second, structure is relative to scale (of energy, time, and length): the same substance has different structures at different scales, and relationships of structural sameness and difference vary across the scales. However, these facts have no tendency to undermine structure’s claim to reality, or its metaphysical seriousness.


Hendry, R. (2016). Structure as abstraction. Philosophy of Science, 83(5), 1070-1081.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Dec 1, 2016
Publication Date Dec 1, 2016
Deposit Date Mar 7, 2017
Publicly Available Date Dec 1, 2017
Journal Philosophy of Science
Print ISSN 0031-8248
Electronic ISSN 1539-767X
Publisher Philosophy of Science Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 83
Issue 5
Pages 1070-1081


Accepted Journal Article (334 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2016 by the Philosophy of Science Association.

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