Boyle did a lot of experiments, and discovered many interesting facts, such
as the temperatures when the different saturated waters boil (ouch!).
In a message dated 9/3/2015 4:19:59 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
Atomism in Russell (and I assume in the early W.) has to do with atomic
facts, which are expressed by atomic propositions. It is not a physical but a
logical notion. (Russell also had a couple of things to say about nuclear
weapons later on but he made it clear that atomic propositions had nothing
to do with that.)
Well, I think this is why it is wise for Boyle to distinguish beween an
'a-tom' (literally, 'in-divisible') and a corpuscule, since there is nothing
in the WORD 'corpuscule' that makes a corpuscule indivisible: it's just a
I think it's Stephen Land who argued, and rightly, that we should not
multiply senses beyond necessity, so if Russell is using 'atom' in a
non-physical (and only) sense, he is being metaphorical. So was Witters, whom
referred to as the Austrian engineer.
Witters went further, and Max Black took good care of this: for Witters
takes the atom/molecule distinction seriously ("It never rains, but it pours"
is molecular), but goes into a corpuscularianism, when he talks about
'radix'. Thus, an atomic proposition CAN be divided: for once, that is what
quantificational logicians do everytime they mention a subject and a predicate,
as in "every man is rational, except the subject of Woody Allen's latest
"Irrational man"). For Witters, according to Max Black's "Companion", a
'radix' is like a 'phrastic', and Witters seems to be using 'radical' in the
chemical (and only) sense. Thus, a ionised atom, as I think chemists call it,
lacks a radix, or something like that.
It may well be that Boyle knew that (or else not).
The first organic free radical identified was triphenylmethyl radical.
This species was discovered by Moses Gomberg in 1900 at the University of
Michigan, USA -- but Gomberg might have read Boyle.
The term "radical", however, was already in use in English and French when
radical theory was developed ("Not to be confused with the use of 'radical'
in politics," Geary explains).
Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau introduced the phrase "radical" in 1785 and
the phrase was employed by Antoine Lavoisier in 1789 in his Traité
Élémentaire de Chimie.
-- which "ain't as "élémentaire" as its title suggests," Geary explains.
A radical was identified as the root base of certain acids (The Latin word
"radix" meaning "root" -- as in the "root of the problem', as used by
Witters, or the "root" of a tree as used by a gardener).
Historically, the term radical in radical theory was also used for bound
parts of the molecule, especially when they remain unchanged in reactions.
These are NOW called functional groups.
For example, methyl alcohol was described as consisting of a methyl
"radical" and a hydroxyl "radical".
Neither are radicals in the modern chemical SENSE, alas, as they are
permanently bound to each other, and have no unpaired, reactive electrons.
This was I think Witters's insight (cfr. Hacker, "Insight and illusion"),
for if we have "Close the door!" we cannot JUST (or merely) have "close the
door" we need a FORCE (or neustic) attached to it, as in the imperative
neustic, or the indicative neustic (Thank you for closing the door -- the door
is now closed, thank you").
However, these chemical radicals (if you excuse me the redundancy) can be
observed as radicals in mass spectrometry when broken apart by irradiation
with energetic electrons -- and I wouldn't be surprised if the source of
this is Boyle.
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