Chemistry, Catalysis, and Causality
Klaus Ruthenberg

September 29, 2023, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Institut supérieur de Philosophie, Catholic University of Louvain

Salle Ladrière (socrate a.124), Collège Mercier
Place Cardinal Mercier 14
Louvain-la-Neuve B-1348

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Université Catholique de Louvain

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On Friday September 29, Klaus Ruthenberg (University of Applied Sciences Coburg, Germany) will give a talk at the Louvain Philosophy of Chemistry Seminar, titled "Chemistry, Catalysis, and Causality" (abstract below).

The aim of this research seminar is to introduce everyone to the exciting, but still emerging field of Philosophy of Chemistry. Get ready for a seminar full of "bangs and stinks" with talks on catalysis, laws of chemistry, the nature of chemical elements, biochemical kinds, and much more.

All talks will be live streamed via YouTube Live from 14:00 to 16:00 CEST. No registration required. Just click the link below, sit back, and enjoy:

The format consists of one hour of talk and one hour of question-and-answer period.

Any questions can be addressed to Pieter Thyssen ([email protected]).

Warm regards,


Chemistry, Catalysis, and Causality

Chemical phenomena inevitably involve materiality. Reactions might even be exposed to the impact of external factors. According to Wilhelm Ostwald “…in certain cases even almost immeasurably small amounts of foreign substance are enough to increase the rate to several multiples of its initial value or reduce it to a small fraction of it.” Since Berzelius we call this phenomenon catalysis. Together with the theoreticians, historians and philosophers of chemistry might ask, what exactly catalysis is. Is it about actuation or acceleration? This paper offers a preliminary impression of the intriguing philosophical aspects of this neglected field of investigation.

Selected sources:

Mittasch, A. (1938) Katalyse und Determinismus. Ein Beitrag zur Philosophie der Chemie. Berlin: Verlag von Julius Springer.

Mittasch, A. (1948) Von der Chemie zur Philosophie. Ausgewählte Schriften und Vorträge. Ulm: J. Ebner Verlag.

Mittasch, A. (1951) Wilhelm Ostwalds Auslösungslehre. (Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, Mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Klasse, 1. Abhandlung.) Berlin etc.: Springer-Verlag.

Ostwald, W. (1917) Grundriss der Allgemeinen Chemie. 5.Aufl. Dresden und Leipzig: Verlag von Theodor Steinkopff.

Ostwald, W. (1894/1996) Chemische Theorie der Willensfreiheit. In: H. Bergmann, Hrsg., Abstand und Nähe, 39-45.

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