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Reactivity in Chemistry: The Propensity View

Suárez, Mauricio and Sánchez-Gómez, Pedro J. (2023) Reactivity in Chemistry: The Propensity View.

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Abstract

We argue for an account of chemical reactivities as chancy propensities, in accordance with the ‘complex nexus of chance’ defended by one of us in the past (Suárez, 2017, 2020). Reactivities are typically quantified as proportions, and an expression such as “A + B → C” does not entail that under the right conditions some amounts of A and B react to give the amount of C that theoretically would correspond to the stoichiometry of the reaction. Instead, what is produced is a fraction α < 1 of this theoretical amount, and the corresponding percentage is usually known as the yield, which expresses the relative preponderance of its reaction. This is then routinely tested in a laboratory against the observed actual yields for the different reactions. Thus, on our account, reactivities ambiguously refer to three quantities at once. They first refer to the underlying propensities effectively acting in the reaction mechanisms, and which in ‘chemical chemistry’ (Schummer, 1998) are commonly represented by means of Lewis structures. Besides, reactivities represent the probabilities that these propensities give rise to, for any amount of the reactants to combine as prescribed. This last notion is hence best understood as a single case chance and corresponds to a theoretical stoichiometric yield. Finally, reactivities represent the actual yields observed in experimental runs, which account for and provide the requisite evidence for / against both the mechanisms and single case chances ascribed.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Suárez, Mauriciomsuarez@filos.ucm.es0000-0002-2842-3641
Sánchez-Gómez, Pedro J.pedros@edu.ucm.es0000-0003-2547-3077
Additional Information: Presented at the 26th Conference of the International Society for the Philosophy of Chemistry, Lille August 2022. Accepted for publication in Foundations of Chemistry on 14 August 2023. Appeared in Foundations of Chemistry, 11 September 2023.
Keywords: Philosophy of Chemistry, Reactivity, Philosophy of Probability, Propensities, Chance
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Chemistry
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Depositing User: Prof Mauricio Suárez
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2023 02:01
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2023 02:01
Item ID: 22700
Official URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10698-0...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10698-023-09477-8
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Chemistry
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Date: 14 August 2023
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/22700

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