Robin Hendry

Project Leader

I graduated with a BSc in Chemistry and the Philosophy of Science from King’s College London and the LSE, in 1989. Foundational problems in quantum chemistry prompted me to sign up for a PhD in Philosophy at the LSE, though when completed in late 1993, only a single chapter of my thesis addressed those issues. My first lectureship was at the University of Edinburgh (January-September 1994), after which I came to Durham in October 1994. Since then I have worked on scientific realism, modeling in the physical sciences, and the history and philosophy of chemistry and its relationship to physics. I am currently Head of the Philosophy Department at Durham.

My major line of investigation is to see what scientific evidence there is for the existence of strong emergence in the natural world. For philosophers, this involves answering two closely related questions: how far do explanatory relationships between theories within different sciences support a reductionist view, according to which there is no strong emergence? What scientific evidence is there for thinking that physical structures and processes are causally closed with respect to structures and processes that depend on them? I address these issues mostly with respect to chemistry, the chief candidate for emergence being molecular structure. But I am also trying to learn from the candidate cases of emergence in physics itself which are counted as such by (at least some) physicists. One of the tasks in addressing these questions is to commensurate philosophers’ criteria for strong emergence (e.g. involving downward causation), with those used by physicists (‘in principle’ non-derivability).

Selected Publications

‘The metaphysics of molecular structure’ in Vassilios Karakostas and Dennis Dieks (eds.) Recent Progress in Philosophy of Science: Perspectives and Foundational Problems (Berlin: Springer, 2013), 331-342

‘Reduction, emergence and physicalism’ in R.F. Hendry, P. Needham and A.I. Woody (eds.) Philosophy of Chemistry (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 2012), 367-386

‘Chemistry: emergence vs. reduction’ in Cynthia and Graham Macdonald (eds.) Emergence in Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 205-21

‘Ontological reduction and molecular structure’ Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 41 (2010), 183-91

‘Is there downward causation in chemistry?’ in Davis Baird, Lee McIntyre and Eric Scerri (eds.) Philosophy of Chemistry: Synthesis of a New Discipline, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science Volume 242 (Dordrecht: Springer, 2006), 173-189