Appendix: The Philosophers’ Atom

Helge Kragh

in Niels Bohr and the Quantum Atom

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654987
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741692 | DOI:
Appendix: The Philosophers’ Atom

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This appendix offers a brief outline of how philosophers of science since the 1960s have thought about the Bohr atomic theory. One group of problems that has attracted philosophical interest relates to the logical and conceptual structure of the theory — for instance, does it build on an inconsistent foundation?—while another group relates to the dynamics of the theory. Why did it develop as it did? Why was it abandoned in 1925? The chapter recalls the different views of some eminent philosophers, including K. Popper and T. Kuhn, and also refers to the literature on the subject written by more recent philosophers. It is argued that the Bohr theory is indeed an important case study for philosophers, but that it needs to be dealt with in a historically sensitive way.

Keywords: philosophy; Bohr theory; atomic theory; philosophers; Karl Popper; Imre Lakatos; Thomas Kuhn

Chapter.  3259 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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