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Scientific Rationality: Phlogiston as a Case Study

Hricko, Jonathon (2017) Scientific Rationality: Phlogiston as a Case Study. Rationality: Constraints and Contexts. pp. 37-59.

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I argue that it was rational for chemists to eliminate phlogiston, but that it also would have been rational for them to retain it. I do so on the grounds that a number of prominent phlogiston theorists identified phlogiston with hydrogen in the late eighteenth century, and this identification became fairly well-entrenched by the early nineteenth century. In light of this identification, I critically evaluate Hasok Chang's argument that chemists should have retained phlogiston, and that doing so would have benefited science. I argue that these benefits would have been unlikely, and I go on to consider some more likely benefits and harms of retaining phlogiston. I conclude that there is a sense in which scientific rationality concerns what is permissible, as opposed to what is required, so that retention and elimination may, at least sometimes, both be rationally permissible options.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Keywords: Scientific Rationality, Chemical Revolution, Phlogiston, Hydrogen, Humphry Davy
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Chemistry
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Jonathon Hricko
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2016 13:16
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:16
Item ID: 12413
Journal or Publication Title: Rationality: Constraints and Contexts
Publisher: Elsevier Academic Press
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Chemistry
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Date: 2017
Page Range: pp. 37-59

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