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Some aspects of the metaphysics of chemistry and the nature of the elements

Abstract

There is now a considerable body of published work on the epistemology of modern chemistry, especially with regard to the nature of quantum chemistry. In addition, the question of the metaphysical underpinnings of chemistry has received a good deal of attention. The present article concentrates on metaphysical considerations including the question of whether elements and groups of elements are natural kinds. It is also argued that an appeal to the metaphysical nature of elements can help clarify the re-emerging controversies among chemists regarding the placement of the elements hydrogen and helium in the periodic system and the question of whether there exists a best form of the periodic table.

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