HYLE--International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry, Vol. 7, No. 2 (2001), pp.181-182
Copyright Ó 2001 by HYLE


HYLE invites papers for a special issue on

Aesthetics and Visualization in Chemistry

Deadline: 31 August 2002 


A classical though frequently neglected philosophical discipline, aesthetics deals with sensations insofar as they induce emotions, attitudes, and judgments beyond epistemic and moral judgments proper. Whether culturally embedded or spontaneously aroused, whether deliberately provoked or incidentally occurring, and whether consciously or unconsciously received, aesthetic messages accompany all our sensations and shape our attitudes towards the world in a certain way. Aesthetics tries to understand the cultural rules, formal conditions, and psychological mechanisms of these processes.

The purpose of this special HYLE issue is to make chemistry subject to aesthetic analysis from different perspectives. This includes the cultural image of chemistry as well as chemistry’s contribution to the image of the world. In also includes the analysis of how chemists arrange their laboratories, instruments, materials, texts, research objects and results, etc. according to aesthetic criteria. In addition, since chemists, more than any other scientists, communicate with each other through images, the visualization of chemical information requires particular attention.

We particularly welcome papers on one or more of the following topics.

Aesthetics of the image of chemistry

  • Portraits of chemists and alchemists in paintings, literature, and pop-cultural media: What kind of aesthetic elements do they employ for mediating what image? Are there historical shifts?
  • Chemical metaphors in the literature: roots, history, and connotations
  • "Natural versus synthetic": placing chemists and the chemical industry in an aesthetic discourse
  • High gloss brochures and advertisements: analysis of aesthetic efforts to improve the image of a profession
  • Aesthetic analysis of individual or corporate icons used by chemists

Aesthetics of the laboratory

  • The design of chemical instruments, laboratory equipment, working settings, and plants beyond functionality: aesthetic messages, atmospheres, and social symbolism. How are these elements employed in cultural representations of chemistry, including science museums and the visual arts?

Aesthetics of chemical texts

  • Analysis of styles and genres of chemical texts, including the uses of illustrations and the presentation of data, for different purposes and readers, from journal papers to chemistry books for children
  • Alchemical allegories and emblems: history, iconology, and their legacy to modern chemistry

Aesthetics of molecular systems and models

  • Formal criteria of the chemists’ sense of beauty and their relation to general aesthetic theories
  • Purposes and trends of beautifying models
  • To which extent do aesthetic ideas guide the practice of chemical synthesis?
  • Do recent research trends towards molecular complexity, self-organization, non-linear dynamics, chaos, transient states and species, etc. reflect an aesthetic shift? 

Aesthetics of problem solving

  • Are there generally accepted aesthetic criteria for preferring certain solutions of epistemic or nonepistemic problems in chemistry, like simplicity or elegance? What exactly do they mean, and how are they related to corresponding criteria in other disciplines, like physics and mathematics? 

Aesthetics of materials

  • How did chemistry contribute to aesthetic changes of ordinary life, e.g. plastics, dyes, protective layers, cosmetics, odors, and flavors?
  • What role do sensual qualities of materials play in chemical practice, today and in the past? Is there a special aesthetics of purity and impurity? 
  • Do sensual qualities of chemical substances and reactions attract newcomers and, particularly, children to chemistry? If yes, how could a curriculum be set up according to aesthetic criteria?
  • How does or could chemistry enrich the aesthetics of materials in modern art and design?


  • The history of visualization in modern chemistry: from line drawings to stereo-images, movies, and virtual reality simulations
  • Visual attractiveness and epistemic values in chemistry
  • Visualization as educational means: advantages and pitfalls
  • "Seeing is believing": case studies of the persuasive character of visualization for establishing theories or theoretical entities in chemistry
  • Can visual images transfer chemical information not expressible in linguistic form?
Manuscripts should follow the general Guidelines for Contributions, available on the inside cover of HYLE and the HYLE web site. Colored illustrations, even brief movies and three-dimensional images, are acceptable for the internet version, but the text should also be comprehensible with few simple b/w illustrations in the print version. If you wish to include three-dimensional images that readers can manipulate online, please contact the Editors in advance concerning appropriate file formats. Send submissions to the Editor not later than August 31, 2002 in appropriate form for anonymous reviews. Send inquiries regarding suitability of submissions, illustrations etc. to the Editor or the Guest Co-editor.

Tami I. Spector, Guest Co-editor 
Dept. of Chemistry, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94117-1080, USA; spector@usfca.edu

Joachim Schummer, Editor 
Institute of Philosophy, University of Karlsruhe, D-76128 Karlsruhe, Germany; editor@hyle.org

Addition made on October 20, 2003:

The special issue has been published in two parts, HYLE nos. 9-1 and 9-2, along with a virtual art exhibition "Chemistry in Art". To order the complete print volume with supplementary CD-Rom, please use our order form.

Copyright Ó 2001 by HYLE