Chemistry between semantics and pragmatics - History...

Chemistry between semantics and pragmatics

In philosophy and science, a stereotype is widely spread that true science does not study what it must be, and then what it is. On this score, a classic Scottish enlightener from XVIII century D. Hume, who refused to recognize scientific rights for ethics, for it is concentrated on what must be. Guillotine Hume leads to a denial of the scientific nature of all humanitarian, as well as technical sciences.

The philosophical substantiation of this view was repeatedly tried to give representatives of analytical philosophy, for example, L. Wittgenstein, and neo-positivism, in particular, O. Neurath. Real science must deal exclusively with firmly established facts, and they take place exclusively in natural science. This was the opinion of the early Wittgenstein. Neurath is the father physicalism, according to which all genuine sciences are, in the final analysis, reduced to physics. Thus, science is a semantic exercise in describing what is.

Semantics by definition is descriptive, not normative, pragmatic. Physicists often took a radical position, refusing to recognize the scientific nature of all those concepts that deal with values ​​and norms. As a rule, they directed their attacks against ethics and aesthetics, but not against chemistry, which was invariably recognized as the native sister of physics and, therefore, like it is impeccable in the scientific sense. However, from the standpoint of descriptivism and chemistry, there must be a certain concern. This is particularly evident in the light of the success achieved in the field of synthetic chemistry. Synthesis of new substances that are not fixed in nature, but created by man for the first time, may not fit into the framework of descriptivism or semantics. After all, he explicitly performs selective actions, that is, he is not satisfied with what is. Does this mean that chemistry does not follow the ideals of semantics? This question needs a special analysis, which is necessary to clarify the status of chemistry as a science.

Suspecting descriptivism in excessive claims, let us assume that along with the semantic sciences there are also pragmatic (or axiological) disciplines. Representatives of the former are, for example, physics and chemistry, and the second - the economy. What is the difference between semantic science and pragmatic disciplines? The answer to this question will clarify the status of chemistry. Perhaps chemistry belongs to a class of semantic rather than pragmatic sciences?

Physics deals with what is and what what will be, but not with what what should be. Scientists predict the onset of a solar eclipse, but they do not claim that it should come in accordance with the values ​​of people. Physics does not avoid consideration of all three modes of time, past, present and future. But it does not ascribe to physical processes the phenomenon of free will, expressed in the choice of a definite goal. Physical nature does not set itself any goals, for it has no values. But the physicist himself is a single-minded being. He achieves the growth of his knowledge of physical reality. In this case, "ensuring the growth of knowledge about physical reality acts as a cognitive, epistemological value. It turns out that even a physicist can not do without values, which seems to be by no means a place in physics. However, a supporter of descriptivism can react to this circumstance quite calmly, pointing out the absence of sign-values ​​in the laws of physics. The physicist sets himself certain goals, but only for the sake of clarifying the nature of the physical processes. The setting of the goal is only a means to achieve the description of phenomena. The subject of physics is the corresponding fragment of nature, and not the cognitive activity of the scientist. It is studied in the framework of physics rather than physics. Epistemological values ​​refer not to physics, but to the philosophy of physics. Thus, in full accordance with the descriptivist attitude, physics is recognized as a semantic discipline.

The economy is fundamentally different from physics. Its subject is the behavior of people, guided, for example, by such values ​​as profit, interest rate, investment volume, unemployment rate. All these values ​​are invented by people, in nature they are not. People, guided by values, consider a fan of possible goals and some of them prefer others. In economic equations, economic values ​​appear. Sometimes they contain physical parameters, measured, for example, in meters and kilograms, but they are considered as signs of values. The economist can rightfully say that he is studying, then, what is, and what should be.

In this case, what is, is the result of the activities of people who set themselves certain goals, and did not rely solely on natural forces. Note that economic values ​​can not be derived from natural patterns. The Schrodinger equation is not a key, for example, to the law of supply and demand. The principle of maximizing profit does not follow from the principle of least action. Having specified the status of two exemplary sciences, one semantic, another pragmatic, let us turn to chemistry.

As in physics, chemistry has no value. Valence, the acidity index, the periods of molecular vibrations, the diameters of orbitals are not the values, but the attributes of the objects described in chemistry. Synthesizing, for example, organic paramagnetics, the chemist is guided by the conceptual potential of quantum chemistry, in which the Schrödinger equation takes center stage. Characteristic for paramagnetics signs are not values. This is clear insofar as they are inherent in chemical objects, and not in humans. Values ​​characterize people who are able to impute their objects. But in this case the signs of natural objects are nothing more than signs of people's values. Nothing like this is found in the world of chemical phenomena. All the signs of synthesized chemical substances are their original characteristics, not being only signs of values. So, as far as chemistry is concerned, we have not yet succeeded in discovering a factor that would lead us beyond the boundaries of semantic science. But is this consistent with the fact that chemists create an artificial world of substances that do not exist in natural conditions? Is not the artificial is unnatural?

Certainly, in some cases, the artificially created leads out of the natural. It is enough to recall in this connection art and technology. The paintings of any outstanding artist do not boil down to canvas and paints, they are some art criticism. Even technical artifacts are more than just "pieces of iron". So, the comfort of a car can not be expressed by a physical or chemical formula. How is it going in synthetic chemistry? Does chemistry deal with values? I will give an illustrative example on this score.

The chemical aspects of the creation of thermoelectric materials are considered, whose Q-factor is the dimensionless coefficient ( ΖT ), which depends on the Seebock coefficient, or the thermoelectric power (S), the absolute temperature (D), the electrical conductivity of the material (σ) and its thermal conductivity (k):


To produce a thermoelectric material, a substance with a high conductivity of a semiconductor type, a high Seebock coefficient and a low, preferably lattice, thermal conductivity is necessary. Thus, the main task is to simultaneously optimize the three specified properties, and the mechanisms that determine the reduction in thermal conductivity and the increase in the power factor should not compensate each other. " The greater the magnitude of the measure of the quality factor of the thermoelectric material, the more successful the activity of the chemist. ZT depends on certain chemical properties and is completely determined by them.

Another indicative moment is the goal-setting activity of a person. It is he, and not chemical reality, that is concerned with the task of increasing the value of ZT. The chemist, when creating new substances, is not satisfied with what nature supplies him, but constructs new, his interesting properties. But how far does he go in this activity? That is the question. As the author seems to be, there are certain possibilities for clarifying the situation. According to the author, at least four types of signs should be distinguished.

This, first, signs of natural objects as such (P1), for example, valence, heat conductivity, mass, which are not values ​​(C). Secondly, the signs of objects (P2) as signs (3) of the values ​​of other sciences, which are the result of the involvement of P2 in another conceptual system. Third, the signs of natural objects (P3), which in themselves are indeed recognized as values ​​(C3). Fourth, the signs of natural objects (P4), acting as signs (3) of social values ​​(Cs), the content of which is considered in social sciences, for example, in economics or political science. In the symbolic form, four types of characteristics can be represented in the following form:





The situation (1) is typical for the traditional understanding of the status of physics and chemistry. Physical and chemical signs are sharply detached from any kind of values. Situation (4) is characteristic of the social sciences. Situation (3) is characteristic for, for example, technical sciences. As for the situation (2), it is precisely its author who considers it characteristic of synthetic chemistry. The peculiarity of this situation is that the value problem is beginning to be developed, but in a rather specific form.

The chemist remains a chemist, he does not become, for example, a technician or an ecologist. Cautious authors only talk about the chemical aspects, for example, biological, technical, agricultural, medical sciences. In their interest in interdisciplinary relations, they do not go beyond the demarcation line that separates chemistry from other sciences. This laudable caution is manifested in the observance of the conceptual boundaries of chemistry by the researcher. It is for this reason that a chemist is recognized in the researcher, and not, for example, an electrical engineer or a radio technician. And this despite the fact that many chemicals synthesized by chemists are of undoubted value for electrical engineering and radio engineering.

In the above example of thermoelectric materials, the task is to increase the measure of their quality factor. But should it be maximized? This question is answered not by chemistry, but by electronic heat engineering. The chemist is guided by the conclusions made in its framework, but in conceptual terms, he does not leave the chemistry boundary. For a chemist, the Q-factor of thermoelectric materials is a chemical, not a technical, characteristic.

Let's return to the guillotine Hume, according to which the real sciences are studying what is what, and not what should be. Guided by this position, we apply to chemistry in a difficult situation, because it seems like would not be limited to studying only cash. Is chemistry at once both a semantic and an axiological science? In an attempt to find an answer to this question, one should critically analyze the very "guillotine" without taking it for absolute truth. For this purpose it is reasonable to turn to the status of sciences. Only in this case is the meaning of the expression "what is", and it, as it turned out in the process of analysis of reference as the stage of intrascientific transduction (see paragraph 12.8), is far from obvious. There are not only signs of chemical objects, but also technical, economic, political and many other values.

So, we should turn to the sciences themselves. And then it is found that in the world of substantive sciences, that is, the sciences of nature and society, the distinction between semantic and pragmatic (axiological) sciences is of topical importance. And it is carried out on the basis of the presence or absence of value concepts in a particular science, without which it is impossible to understand the activity of man as a creature that sets certain goals on the basis of certain values.

The subject of the semantic sciences is, strictly speaking, not what is, but the world, whose objects do not make decisions and do not set themselves any goals. Both the physicist and the chemist set certain goals: they want to know nature in the most exhaustive way possible. But they do not add value to the very nature. A chemist sets certain goals, but molecules are not capable of this. If chemistry was a science not about chemical reality, but about chemists, it would inevitably have to introduce an idea of ​​the values ​​that they are guided in their activities. However, chemistry is not people, but chemical phenomena. A person can get through to chemical referents only insofar as he wishes this and, therefore, sets himself certain goals. But it would be extremely hasty on this basis to ascribe human traits to chemical phenomena. Francis Bacon, arguing about the idols of the family, correctly noted that one should not liken nature to man. Thus, in the opinion of the author, in spite of the expedient activity of chemists, the chemistry itself must be classed as a semantic science. As a semantic science, it gives a carefully verified conceptual image of not only what is, but also what will happen, what can be, and even what must be in accordance with the requests of pragmatic sciences.

Physics and chemistry belong to the class of semantic sciences. This conclusion does not contradict the expedient activity of a physicist and a chemist. It is not the subject of physics and chemistry, but of the philosophy of physics and the philosophy of chemistry. Researchers are put in such conditions when they are not able to contact each representative of the universe of physical and chemical reality, and therefore they are forced to behave in an electoral way, and this can not be achieved without setting goals. Studying chemical phenomena, a chemist does not function as a chemical object. The researcher seeks to ensure the growth of scientific knowledge, chemical processes, of course, do not have to do this case.


1. Chemistry is a semantic science.

2. The philosophy of chemistry is an axiological discipline.

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