Chemistry: The Impure Science by Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent

By Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent

What do you go along with chemistry? Explosions, cutting edge fabrics, plastics, toxins? The public's pressured and contradictory belief of chemistry as easy technology, business manufacturer and polluter contributes to what we found in this publication as chemistry's photograph as an impure technological know-how. traditionally, chemistry has consistently been seen as impure either when it comes to its educational prestige and its function in reworking smooth society. whereas exploring the historical past of this technological know-how we argue for a attribute philosophical strategy that distinguishes chemistry from physics. This mirrored image leads us to a philosophical stance that we characterise as operational realism. during this new extended variation we delve deeper into the questions of homes and potentials which are so very important for this philosophy that's according to the manipulation of subject instead of the development of theories.

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The apparently irreducible fact that chemistry poses a threat means that it needs to be strictly supervised and monitored. qxd 5/19/2012 7:15 PM Page 31 b1343 Chemistry: The Impure Science Chemistry and Pollution 31 Artificial or Natural? Here, we have presented the case that the dichotomy between chemical and natural, with all the connotations it imputes to chemistry — poison, stain, pollution — is not simply the result of the credulity or irrationality of an ungrateful public. Thus, the public can very well recognize how much chemistry has brought them in material terms, how much it has transformed their lives, and still be legitimately sceptical or at least suspicious concerning this science and its industrial applications.

While each different natural substance seemed to be suited to only one or at most a few uses, Bakelite could serve many different purposes, and was used to make combs, hair slides, collars, buttons, telephones and radios, to cite only a few of its better-known applications. Furthermore, the possibility of dyeing Bakelite meant that it could be given the appearance of a variety of different materials, such as tortoiseshell, amber, coral, marble, jade or onyx. Like its polyvalence, its chameleon-like ability to take on different colours devalued Bakelite in the eyes of the public, as it was perceived as a clear indication of the radical inferiority of the artificial substitute with respect to original, natural materials.

The term “plastics” and the idea of plasticity are synonyms of adaptability, materials that change their form in reaction to someone’s needs or desires. This characteristic flexibility has been exploited by designers, architects and artists alike who have used modern materials to explore new aesthetic horizons, from moulded bumpers on cars to acrylic paintings on canvas. The adoption of synthetic polymers by elite designers and artists lent them a certain degree of respectability, spurring new orientations in the design of consumer goods.

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