Classificatory norms in scientific practice: the unobjective but rational *chemical element*.


It is often presumed that empirical considerations provide epistemic objectivity for claims about the boundaries and classification of scientific categories. This has seemed especially plausible in chemistry. Focusing on the category chemical element, we describe two 20th century developments that undermine epistemic objectivism about it. But our second thesis is that, in practice, this shortfall is bridged by relying on a little-recognized species of pragmatic norm: classificatory norms. We contend this precludes the objectivity, yet ironically affords the rationality, of related category and classification claims

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