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Structure, essence and existence in chemistry

Hendry, Robin Findlay

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Philosophers have often debated the truth of microstructural essentialism about chemical substances: whether or not the structure of a chemical substance at the molecular scale is what makes it the substance it is. Oddly they have tended to pursue this debate without identifying what a structure is, and with some confusion and about what a chemical substance is. In this paper I draw on chemistry to rectify those omissions, providing a pluralist account of structure, clarifying what (according to chemistry) a chemical substance is and defending microstructural essentialism, as I understand that position. I then give an account of the existence of composite substances and objects in chemistry, an issue that goes back to Aristotle.


Hendry, R. F. (2023). Structure, essence and existence in chemistry. Ratio: An international journal of analytic philosophy,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 7, 2023
Online Publication Date Aug 25, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Aug 31, 2023
Publicly Available Date Aug 31, 2023
Journal Ratio: An International Journal of Analytic Philosophy
Print ISSN 0034-0006
Electronic ISSN 1467-9329
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Philosophy
Public URL


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