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Manuel DeLanda's Philosophical Chemistry

I just started reading Manuel DeLanda’s new book, Philosophical Chemistry, last night. I could tell from just the opening paragraph that this is exactly the book I want to be reading right now:

There is no such thing as Science. The word “Science” refers to a reified generality that together with others, like Nature and Culture, has been a constant source of false problems: are controversies in Science decided by Nature or Culture? Avoiding badly posed problems requires that we replace Science with a population of individual scientific fields, each with its own concepts, statements, significant problems, taxonomic and explanatory schemas.

He has a method for modeling an individual scientific field, whose main elements are, the domain of phenomena, the community of practitioners, the instruments and techniques used by practioners to explore the domain, and the social context in which practioners operate.


His aim is to test this model by tracing the development of chemistry from 1750 to 1900, through its textbooks.

The major policy challenge that most weighs on my mind, climate change, is tangled up in mistaken beliefs about Science and Nature and Culture being unified and separable categories. I know this won’t be a popular book, by any stretch, but we need more of this kind of work. Humans are shitty at reasoning, planning for the future, and being just to one another. We are not going to get better at any of these things unless we look at how we succeed and fail at the process of learning from evidence. DeLanda is such a clear synthesizer of philosophical ideas; I’m excited to see what kinds of new cognitive tools I’m going to get from Philosophical Chemistry.