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RFC: Should Alchemy be included in Category:Pseudoscience[edit]

The following discussion is an archived record of a request for comment. Please do not modify it. No further edits should be made to this discussion. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
There is a clear consensus among participants that the Category:Pseudoscience should not be present in this article in its current state. The discussion about the category's removal focused on two main points: is "pseudoscience" used as a descriptor by academics; is there a following big enough to justify calling it a pseudoscience (and is that information present on the article). On the first point, editors said that, while there is some coverage of alchemy in pseudoscience texts, current experts avoid that term as it can be seen as anachronistic. Concerning the second point, it was noted that the article does not contain enough information on alchemy in modern times to justify the category, but it might be reinserted in the event that content on the subject is added (though it is recommended this is discussed on the talk page). (non-admin closure) Isabelle 🔔 17:56, 12 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Up until December 8th, Alchemy was included in the category Category:Pseudoscience. Should it be restored? Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 18:48, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I think there are better sources than Campbell out there. jps (talk) 20:05, 13 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No as I am unsure that once real science took over it continued to be a thing. Unlike astrology, homeopathy, and all the others it is no longer practiced (as far as I know). At least in any meaningful way.Slatersteven (talk) 18:53, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Yes It could be considered a prescience or protoscience but also a pseudoscience especially today. I have a limited screen at the moment and the interface for navigation and writing is not optimal, but I can immediately list some sources that cover alchemy and are about pseudoscience (these will not be proper links or citations): Pseudoscience, a critical encyclopedia (Regal), Abominable Science (Loxon, Prothero, Shermer), Philosophy of Pseudoscience—Reconsidering The Demarcation Problem (Pigliucci, Boudry)... In a way it is similar to old beliefs in medicine like humorism, that unfortunately is still believed (with variants) by some. An example that immediately comes to mind was the "sexual transmutation" of "energies" in Samael Aun Weor's writings, with a syncretic "modernized" alchemy that suggested that seminal "hydrogens" were migrating (with their isotope changing) as they were going up the metaphysical nadis (channels) to feed the subtle bodies (and by metaphor, transform the lead of the personality in the gold of the spirit)... And this is also a clue about an article that desperately needs improvements.Face-smile.svgPaleoNeonate – 19:11, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No, I propose we resurrect Category:Protoscience, which is a more accurate categorization. Skyerise (talk) 19:13, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    It may then suit to both categories, —PaleoNeonate – 19:22, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Yes Simply because while I certainly acknowledge that alchemy is not really a living pseudoscience, it was also not simply ended and replaced by real science, but rather, the two "co-existed" as it were for a good long while. One need look no further than the person of Isaac Newton for evidence of that. It would not feel right to me to say that the author of the Principia also practiced "protoscience," though if that's the chosen terminology, I get it. Cheers, all. Dumuzid (talk) 19:26, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Maybe – Apparently, the oldest known use of the word pseudoscience in English was in relation to alchemy (James Pettit Andrews calling it a "fantastical pseudo-science” in the Oxford English Dictionary; see the Science and Pseudo-Science article in SEP). Also, per PaleoNeonate, it is covered by experts on pseudoscience, such as Brian Regal in Pseudoscience, a critical encyclopedia. However, it's worth quoting what Regal actually writes about alchemy (pp. 6–7):

The work of Paracelsus and Newton show that, far from being some strange, foreign practice performed by cranks in the dark corners of society, alchemy, in a broad sense, was part of mainstream intellectual thought. It is persuasively argued by historians that alchemical research helped pave the way for later understandings of the universe and was a pivotal intellectual part of the Scientific Revolution, which supposedly did away with superstitious belief for a society based upon reason alone. All of early chemistry took its working methodologies and underlying assumptions directly from alchemy. [...] Once dismissed by scientists and historians alike as nothing more than a mildly interesting pseudoscience indulged in by persons of dubious integrity, the modern reappraisal of alchemy, and its resurrection as a worthwhile topic of historical study, came in the late 1970s with the publication of Belgian historian of science Robert Halleux Les Textes Alchemiques. He saw the work of some alchemists as organized and experimental and thus forming the basis of modern experimental science. This opened up alchemy as a topic serious scholars could and should investigate. It was this growing body of literature that helped overturn so many of the fantastical and preconceived notions about alchemy. [...] The traditional view is that alchemy was a strange, irrational fringe pursuit and that chemistry, as a logical practice, evolved out of it almost accidentally. This view has been repudiated by the scholarship of Lawrence Principe and William Newman. Their close reading and analysis of original texts and primary sources shows that there was no differentiation between alchemy and chemistry to the practitioners of the field prior to about 1700.

Regal rightfully cites the most foremost contemporary experts on alchemy, William R. Newman and Lawrence M. Principe. But what do these experts themselves say? I'll repeat the quotes I gave above:

[...] Shapin's recent survey, The Scientific Revolution (1996), merely reinforces this point. Alchemy makes a brief appearance here among the “pseudosciences,” whose interaction with the “proper sciences” such as chemistry was “intensely problematic.” Shapin may be relating what he views as broad seventeenth-century categories, but if so, he is badly mistaken. In fact, the imposition of a meaningful distinction between alchemy and chemistry is highly anachronistic for most of the seventeenth century, and especially for Boyle, whose transmutational quest extended from his earliest laboratory training at the hands of the American chymist George Starkey up until his death in 1691. Shapin’s imposition of modern categories onto seventeenth-century chymistry is particularly ironic in view of his own extensively argued case for a “contextualist” history of science that would avoid the anachronistic excesses of those historians who have focused on the internal development of their subject. One might expect that Shapin’s oft-stated respect for historical context and actors’ categories would have steered him away from employing the dated yet modern distinction between “pseudoscience” and the so-called “proper sciences.” Yet a closer reading of his theoretical writings reveals a point of paramount importance that helps to explain this lapse—Shapin’s method consists largely of adding sociological explanations to the preexisting history of ideas rather than subjecting the results of intellectual history to critical analysis.

Newman, William R. (2006). Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-226-57697-8.

Alchemy now holds an important place in the history of science. Its current status contrasts with its former exile as “pseudoscience” or worse and results from several rehabilitative steps carried out by scholars who made closer, less programmatic, and more innovative studies of the documentary sources. Interestingly, alchemy’s outcast status was created in the eighteenth century and perpetuated thereafter in part for strategic and polemical reasons –and not only on account of a lack of historical understanding. Alchemy’s return to the fold of the history of science highlights important features about the development of science and our changing understanding of it.

Principe, Lawrence M. (2011). "Alchemy Restored". Isis. 102 (2): 305–312. doi:10.1086/660139. PMID 21874690. S2CID 23581980.

Principe and Newman themselves are in fact quite explicit that projecting the modern concept of pseudoscience on historical alchemy is badly mistaken, highly anachronistic, dated, and results from strategic and polemical reasons and a lack of historical understanding. So on the one hand there's the traditional conception of alchemy as a pseudoscience, still popular among the general public, but on the other hand this traditional conception is rejected by the expert scholars of the last 20–30 years. This makes it a difficult call. ☿ Apaugasma (talk ) 20:00, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And to that I reply

Principe, looking at the history of alchemy in hindsight, doesn't seem to realize that alchemy was ridiculed so much because people of the time were a lot closer to it than he is, and they knew it a lot better than he does today. He thinks the ridicule caused alchemy to lose favor, as if it were part of some Illuminatus conspiracy all its own, when instead it lost favor because the few serious people that did it got nowhere and everyone else was just goofy and making all of chemistry look bad just when chemistry showed promise to be meaningful. That reasoning would be like declaring hundreds of years from now that homeopathy fell out of favor because it was ridiculed, rather than falling out of favor because it was ridiculous. Yet homeopaths claim instances where it worked and Principe falls into the trap of saying alchemy was more legitimate than its perception because some substances were invented by alchemists. It's not the same thing as being science. There's nothing wrong with turning out to be pseudoscience - like Newton, you can try to legitimize alchemy but when the evidence isn't there, it becomes zealotry instead.

And there's nothing wrong with pseudoscience having a place in the history of science, but seeking to revise history so that alchemy was not pseudoscience at all, because early proponents did what they could with the chemistry they had, knocks out every definition of science. There is no junk or pseudoscience that can't have a similar rehabilitation the same way.

Campbell, Henry, "Is Alchemy Back In Fashion?". 27 August 2014.

Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 20:51, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm sorry, but the criticism of one of the foremost academic experts on alchemy by the self-described "award-winning science writer and bestselling author Hank Campbell" (deleted WP page; AfD), who clearly is as ignorant as they come about this subject, is all but irrelevant. See WP:GEVAL. ☿ Apaugasma (talk ) 21:04, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No. Alchemy was not a pseudoscience but a protoscience, and alchemy withered away as a separate field of study when it became chemistry. You can see this still in some of the obsolete chemical nomenclature. The same is true of ancient astrology, another protoscience which went the same way. -- The Anome (talk) 21:00, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No. Apaugasma is 100% correct. All scholars who have seriously studied the history of alchemy have serious question about characterizing it as a pseudoscience, and Principe and Newman, who adamantly oppose the characterization for good reasons, are two of the most eminent current living specialists in the history of this subject. Calling alchemy a pseudoscience is an anachronism and distortion of its history. Throughout most of its history there was no meaningful distinction between chemists and alchemist. In fact, "chemist" (Latin "chemicus") is a neologism of the 16th century, so all serious chemists before this time were literally "alchemists".Ajrocke (talk) 22:12, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No - it would be anachronistic to call alchemy a pseudoscience. Dirk Beetstra T C 11:15, 13 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Comment The problem in these discussions is that category placement is not subject to nuance at all. This means the nuance all has to be in the text. In the case of "pseudoscience", the general consensus has been that it should only be applied to concepts which have a current following. Problem is, since by necessity, it is often the case that such followings are minimal, there is no reasonable threshold that we can point to in deciding when an idea is still adhered to and when it is moribund. There are certainly New Age fetishists who believe in alchemy as "ancient knowledge" for which they adopt pseudoscientific thinking, but this doesn't seem to be a particularly strong advocacy within that movement (unlike, in comparison, the champions of quantum flapdoodle). But they do exist. The problem here is that categorizing Alchemy as pseudoscience is necessarily paying attention to this fringe movement in a way that may detract from the much more academically robust investigation of alchemy in its historical context. Perhaps the correct thing to do is to WP:SPINOUT an article about the fringe pseudoscientific adoptions of alchemy in current practice (if there are enough sources to write about this coherently). jps (talk) 12:47, 13 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I agree about categories being a yes/no question where there's no room for nuance. If the question of this RfC had been 'should alchemy be characterized as pseudoscience', my answer would have been a firm no rather than a maybe. But if the question had been 'is there some relation between alchemy and pseudoscience' it would have been a firm yes.
    Alchemy was historically related to a complex web of ideas that also included various forms of learned magic ('talismanic magic', 'natural magic'), mysticism, astrology, etc., and as such became an important ingredient in the 19th-/20th-century re-imaginings of these ideas by occultist authors. But occultism is precisely characterized by scholars as a type of esotericism that seeks both to integrate and to overcome modern science, presenting itself –as well as the ancient and medieval ideas from which it takes it inspiration– as a superior alternative to secular or 'disenchanted' science. These occultist claims are, of course, essentially pseudoscientific, and as such they implicate alchemy in a pseudoscientific discourse.
    But then it is occultism that is per se pseudoscientific, not alchemy: many modern so-called 'alchemists' are really just weaving further on the web of occultist fantasies, and are all but completely disconnected from the historical practices and conceptualizations of alchemy. The question is indeed whether alchemy has a current following, as opposed to occultism. If it has, it is decidedly marginal, to the point that these pseudoscientific offshoots are at best tangential to the topic of alchemy taken as a whole. I'm fairly certain that there are not enough sources on this to legitimize a separate article, and it will in fact not be easy to even write a reliably sourced section about it in this one. But to the extent that such a section is possible, it may mention the word 'pseudoscience', and as far as I understand categories on Wikipedia, that may be enough to include the article in category:pseudoscience. On the other hand, we do not yet have such a section, so perhaps we should not yet have the category either.
    I will admit though that I'm weary of editors writing up such a section merely to be able to brand alchemy as pseudoscience: this article is not in a good state, but it is still blissfully free from the undue anti-pseudoscience rhetoric that plagues such articles as astrology. I would of course welcome a well-written section based upon actual experts on alchemy/occultism (the relevant field is 'Western esotericism studies') who are eager to understand and explain their subject material (rather than on skeptic authors who focus on debunking and discrediting the topic, while all too often being happy to remain largely or even entirely ignorant of it). However, such sections generally arise from knowledgeable editors who come to the article with a genuine interest and a mind to expand and improve its contents (rather than to ... well, debunk and discredit the topic without any interest to actually understand and explain it), and this is just not the case at this time. These things cannot be forced, and we should not try to force them: better to have the pseudoscience category without in-text support for it than to have a hastily written and undue section on this topic just for the sake of adding the category. ☿ Apaugasma (talk ) 18:21, 13 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If we cannot manage to write an article/section about the pseudoscientific version of alchemy that is up to our standards, WP:ASTONISH, I would argue, would have us not categorize the article as such. It does the reader no good to see a category and be unable to find why the article is so categorized. jps (talk) 19:57, 13 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Another article is probably not necessary although a few existing ones likely have mentions of alchemical concepts. The current article includes (unsourced): "The courses, books, organizations, and conferences generated by their students continue to influence popular applications of alchemy as a New Age medicinal practice." which could be clarified with a source, including a mention of modern pseudoscientific use (independently of the category)... —PaleoNeonate – 02:16, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@PaleoNeonate: yes, you're right of course. That section desperately needs a reliable source, as well as a clarification that in the modern context spagyrics is considered pseudoscience. An alternative may be to remove the section for the time being. I'm not sure how notable it is, and I'm kind of disappointed that Edzard Ernst 2019, Alternative Medicine: A Critical Assessment of 150 Modalities doesn't mention it. Let's just not go overboard in citing skepticist criticism of it if that's the only kind of source we find. Only writing about something to discredit it, while acceptable in some cases, easily veers off into unencyclopedic (WP:NOTADVOCACY) territory, and should be avoided as much as possible in my view. ☿ Apaugasma (talk ) 13:09, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I doubt there's any issue with "discrediting" any modern usage, though and stating the obvious isn't necessarily advocacy territory, especially considering WP:PSCI and that reliably published sources exist... —PaleoNeonate – 13:34, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
There's no issue at all with discrediting, or stating the obvious, as such. I explicitly said we should call modern spagyrics a pseudoscience if the section on it is to remain. The issue (only potential here) is rather with discrediting for the sake of discrediting, which would belong on Skeptopedia, but not on Wikipedia. If the only reliable sources that exist are written with the explicit and sole purpose of debunking or discrediting a subject, that is a strong indication in my view that the subject is not notable from a properly encyclopedic point of view (as may be the case for modern spagyrics). At least one or two reliable sources that approach the subject from an academic perspective (historical, sociological, philosophical, psychological, ... again, the most relevant field would be Western esotericism studies) are needed to get a broader view, one that goes beyond simply advocating against something. I'm aware that our guidelines are not adjusted to this, and that in many places Wikipedia actually functions as a kind of Skeptopedia. Now in some ways I actually like this Skeptopedia type of approach (there's a huge societal relevance to this), but I also do think that it should be its own project, and that it does not in fact belong here (we should rather be able to link to it, as in Wikipedia does not cover this subject, but a related article exists on Skeptopedia, or For more on this subject, see the article on Skeptopedia). These are my thoughts, but please feel free to disagree; I probably hold a minority view here, and I do respect other views on this. ☿ Apaugasma (talk ) 16:00, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've gone ahead and removed the brief mentions of spagyrics and TCM, as they are modern adaptations and were never part of alchemy proper. I see that spagyrics comprise most of the article on Paracelsianism. Perhaps the article should be re-titled "Spagyrics" with sections on Paracelsian and Modern uses. Alchemy and "plant alchemy" are really two different topics. We can put the pseudoscience category on that article. Skyerise (talk) 17:08, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It may be of interest to know that there used to be a separate page called Spagyric, which was merged with Paracelsianism on 5 July 2020‎. Also important to note is that spagyria primarily refers to the 16th-/17th-century iatrochemical practice, and as such does in fact deserve a place in this article. As for the section on 20th-century 'revival' spagyrics which was copied to Paracelsianism, I fear that the problem has merely been moved to that article. It still needs reliable sourcing, as well as a citation for the fact that it is a pseudoscience. I have already added Category:Pseudoscience to the article though. ☿ Apaugasma (talk ) 19:55, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Whether or not modern spagyrics is a pseudoscience is debatable. It depends on the exact definition. To the extent 'spagyrics' refers to the process and even the resulting product, it consists of perfectly scientific chemical extraction techniques. That is, the process uses recognizable chemical extraction methods and produces a perfectly real and analyzable extract. Does the term 'spagyrics' also include the diagnosis and prescription for illness? That's not clear to me, and if it doesn't, then there is no pseudoscience involved, just archaic terminology. The only part which might be considered pseudoscience is the medical part, which is why either 'plant alchemy' (used since the early 20th century) or 'herbal alchemy' (used since c. 1960) would probably be better titles than 'spagryics'. 'Herbal alchemy' is the most common designation. In any case, if herbal extracts in and of themselves are 'pseudoscience', then so is vanilla extract. Skyerise (talk) 21:40, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No - To refer to alchemy as a pseudoscience is incorrect and anachronistic. It is part of the history of science and philosophy. It belongs in the category "protoscience" (which should be reactivated). Netherzone (talk) 13:38, 13 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Weak No - I think I agree with Netherzone that alchemy seems to be more of a "protoscience" than a "pseudoscience". That said, I don't think those two things are necessarily exclusive of each other, and I'm sure some nutty guy somewhere is still trying to turn lead into gold. NickCT (talk) 13:14, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Maybe Putting the article Alchemy into the category Category:Pseudoscience isn't the same thing as calling the historical subject of alchemy a pseudoscience. Anyone trying to do alchemy today isn't doing protoscience, but pseudoscience; if this article contained more material about such people, I'd be a solid "yes". The categorization might not be warranted as the article stands currently, but I wouldn't rule it out as a matter of principle, either. XOR'easter (talk) 18:47, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No. At least, not in Wikipedia's voice. Where relevant reliable sources have argued for and against the applicability of the term to alchemy we can of course cite them for what they say, but beyond that, it is simply anachronistic to apply such terms retroactively. 19:17, 14 December 2021 (UTC)— Preceding unsigned comment added by AndyTheGrump (talkcontribs) 19:17, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No As per many of the above comments.---Wikaviani (talk) (contribs) 22:11, 14 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No - (1) per the edit summary that the category ‘neither mentioned or supported in article text’; (2) *and* the category definition states to ‘not include obsolete scientific theories’; (3) logically, alchemy predates modern science so it could not have been an imitation of it; and (4) I prefer serious encyclopedic writing with more restraint against throwing around a sensationalist vague pejorative. Cheers Markbassett (talk) 12:52, 16 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes. I would expect to find alchemy in the pseudoscience category, if I was browsing that category. If it is or is not pseudoscience is almost another question. It can probably be described as a fragmented religion, especially considering how the term is used by modern magical organizations. In the past, they probably really did try obtain transmutation via chemistry, a proto-science. · · · Omnissiahs hierophant (talk) 19:58, 16 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Only if it can be described as such uncontroversial in the text, which will require more work to determine. Literally the only source mentioning pseudoscience currently in the article is a ref that says Alchemy May Not Have Been the Pseudoscience We All Thought It Was, noting that Alchemy was for its time relatively cutting-edge and accurate compared to competing theoretical systems. A quick search turns up this as well, which says something similar - that alchemy is currently considered a form of early science rather than pseudoscience. A Google Scholar search, however, suggests that there are definitely plenty of sources referring to Alchemy as a pseudoscience (sometimes even as an iconic example of pseudoscience) - but we need to hash out a paragraph or so in the text about this. The "science" section (which may or may not be the best place for this) is currently a ridiculously tiny stub that focuses on a bit of trivia rather than the much more important question of alchemy's place in the development of modern science. Work the text out first, worry about categories after. --Aquillion (talk) 05:11, 21 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  • Not sure It seems unfair to lump it in with astrology, as alchemy is an important part of the history of science. Also, pseudoscience is usually something masquerading as science while at the same time being at odds with it, but alchemy simply pre-dated science, there was nothing for it to be at odds with. It gradually evolved into modern chemistry, but it was a very slow transition in places, Vitalism was still being debated 100 years ago. --Project Osprey (talk) 19:58, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Astrology is also an important part of the history of science. It doesn't make it any less pseudoscientific. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 20:51, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Indeed, —PaleoNeonate – 21:04, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And while it's also much less prevalent than astrology, by modern standards, it doesn't mean it's extinct. See this list amongst other things. I mean, just read this nonsense by French alchemist Jean Dubuis (ASIN B07RG71R7W. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 21:06, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Not nonsense, but not alchemy as generally understood. That's herbal alchemy, and "vegetable mercury" is a real thing in mid-17th-century medicine. Skyerise (talk) 22:01, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Wow. Then we should make the distinction between prescientific alchemy, which was definitely protoscience, and ... whatever that just was. Similarly prescientific astrology and modern astrology. -- The Anome (talk) 21:12, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That's close to "purified mercury" (this one is not about isolation). —PaleoNeonate – 21:57, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Forget astrology. PaleoNeonate's comparison of alchemy above with humorism, and medieval medicine generally, is much better: alchemy was very closely related to medicine on a theoretical level (see, e.g., here). Take, for example, Unani medicine: no one would think about calling Hippocrates' and Galen's medicine pseudoscience, but people who still cling to this in the 20th century are obviously practicing pseudoscience. The important difference is that medieval chemistry (alchemy), in contradistinction to medieval medicine, had a huge influence on modern occultism and esotericism. Thus we find figures like Samael Aun Weor referring to alchemical concepts. But another difference is that, while adherents of Unani medicine are still practicing a form of medicine that is almost identical to medieval medicine, Weor's imaginings have little or nothing to do with actual medieval alchemy. In that sense, it's rather questionable to represent figures like Weor as 'alchemists'. The same is true about the 'alchemists' we list here. There are not many good reliable sources on 20th-century 'alchemy', but it is a very complex subject indeed. ☿ Apaugasma (talk ) 21:19, 12 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think that's right: "modern" alchemy, astrology etc. are all esoteric movements that are based on the concept that the prescientific ideas are somehow ancient wisdom that is "more true" than real science; and then they take those and build their own ideas on top. -- The Anome (talk) 08:58, 13 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Alchemy Museums - the Alchemist's cave in Prague[edit]

I wrote about Alchemy in Prague, since Prague was a hub for massive scientific and artistic developments. I focused on the Alchemist’s Cave found after a flood, which was turned into a museum by a person who bought the place (so it was privatized). Some things to be thought about include how the cave connects to public history (If a person is in charge of curating the material) and is the cave is a memorial for alchemy. How is the interactivity of the cave/museum recreated as the original objects/interactivity (the doors opening the same as the original ones) part of a historical genre? How is talking about alchemy as a cool thing and mentioning only male alchemists create a historical power, vs how much of it is saving that past without adding presentism to it?Ushtima (talk) 12:25, 10 April 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Your edits were removed, as they were a word-for-word copy-paste violation WP:COPYVIO from Google Translate of an article in the Spanish language National Geographic magazine. Not cool. BTW, I have been to the Speculum Alchemae/Alchemist's Cave/Museum of Alchemy in Prague, and although it is very interesting to see the historical artifacts, it is primarily a tourist attraction selling "elixirs", and I'm not sure it belongs in this article unless it is rewritten without copyright violations and backed up with reliable, verifiable independent sources WP:RS. Netherzone (talk) 16:24, 10 April 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Wiki Education assignment: History of Science to Newton[edit]

Sciences humaines.svg This article was the subject of a Wiki Education Foundation-supported course assignment, between 23 August 2022 and 12 December 2022. Further details are available on the course page. Student editor(s): WildRhombus, Patissiereyumeiro. Peer reviewers: SunnYxXxxx.

— Assignment last updated by Patt0400 (talk) 18:05, 13 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Welcome! I for, for one, look forward to your contributions, but should a change you make be reverted, please don't be offended, just come here and make your case. Cheers. Dumuzid (talk) 20:28, 1 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Aristotle and alchemy[edit]

Hi Iley1228! Thanks for your contribution to this article. Unfortunately, I have needed to revert it, since there are several problems with it:

  1. Scholars generally agree that (western) alchemy originated in the late Hellenistic period, with the writings attributed to Democritus (pseudo-Democritus, dated to circa 54–68 CE) being the earliest surviving texts. Although earlier (Greek) natural philosophy did influence alchemy, it's misleading to speak about it as if it were part of alchemy's own history. The discussion of early Greek natural philosophy therefore does not belong in the Byzantium section, but in a separate section on pre-alchemical ideas on material constitution and change (theories of matter).
  2. The source you used, Hopkins 1934, is seriously dated (see WP:AGE MATTERS). One consequence of this is that Hopkins' claim (pp. 25–27) that Aristotle's theory of growth formed the basis for alchemical theories of transmutation needs some qualification. Among Aristotle's four causes, the final cause (and more generally the concept of entelechy or the natural tendency to a formal state of 'perfection') is still considered an important part of most alchemical theories (see, e.g., Newman 2004), but it is now generally recognized that alchemical theory of matter was fundamentally opposed to Aristotelian hylomorphism and adopted instead a theory of the corpuscularian kind (Newman 2006, pp. 13, 224–225 et passim). This corpuscularian theory in turn did have roots in Meteorology IV, which despite the fact that it was probably written by Aristotle did not take a hylomorphistic approach (see Newman 2001; Viano 2002; Viano 2006). Thus, the interplay of matter and form in Aristotle's theory of growth has been amply shown to be absent from –and indeed antithetical to– alchemical theories. Instead it is now recognized that alchemy drew upon the corporealist/materialist approaches of Hellenistic philosophies like Stoicism (see Gourinat 2005 [updated English translation in Gourinat 2009]; Dufault 2015; Rinotas 2017; Rinotas 2021).
  3. In general, it's probably a bad idea to write a single short paragraph only covering Plato and Aristotle. As you can see from the above this is a rather complex subject, which means that it needs a lot of context for the reader to understand. Even if Hopkins 1934's claim about the influence of Aristotle's theory of growth would still hold up today, and if we were to write something about it in our article, we would need to explain what that theory of growth was and how precisely alchemists made use of it. What you wrote, his 4 steps to growth were used by future philosophers as a way to achieve alchemy, is incomprehensible for an average reader without context.
  4. When citing sources that have page numbers for claims made in wiki-voice (i.e., in articles), always be sure to include them in your citation.

One more tip: since alchemy in general is a difficult subject, it's probably best not to dive into the specialist sources I cited above. Instead, try some newer introductory coursebooks on the subject (similar to Hopkins 1934 but much more recent and up to date), such as Principe 2013 or Joly 2013. Especially Principe 2013 is a joyful read, and I'm sure you'll find something interesting in it to add to this article. ☿ Apaugasma (talk ) 15:23, 3 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Dufault, Olivier (2015). "Transmutation Theory in the Greek Alchemical Corpus". Ambix. 62 (3): 215–244.
  • Gourinat, Jean-Baptiste (2005). "La théorie stoicienne de la matière: entre la matérialisme et une relecture 'corporaliste' du Timée". In Viano, Cristina (ed.). L'Alchimie et ses racines philosophiques: La tradition grecque et la tradition arabe. Paris: Vrin. pp. 37–62.
  • Gourinat, Jean-Baptiste (2009). "The Stoics on Matter and Prime Matter: 'Corporealism' and the Imprint of Plato's Timaeus". In Salles, Ricardo (ed.). God and cosmos in Stoicism. Oxford: Oxford university press. pp. 46–70.
  • Hopkins, Arthur John (1934). Alchemy, child of Greek philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Joly, Bernard (2013). Histoire de l'alchimie. Paris: Vuibert. ISBN 2311012487.
  • Newman, William R. (2001). "Corpuscular Alchemy and the Tradition of Aristotle's Meteorology, with Special Reference to Daniel Sennert". International Studies in the Philosophy of Science. 15: 145–153.
  • Newman, William R. (2004). Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-57524-7.
  • Newman, William R. (2006). Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226576961.
  • Principe, Lawrence M. (2013). The Secrets of Alchemy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226103792.
  • Rinotas, Athanasios (2017). "Stoicism and Alchemy in Late Antiquity: Zosimus and the Concept of Pneuma". Ambix. 64 (3): 203–219.
  • Rinotas, Athanasios (2021). "Spiritual and Material Conversion in the Alchemical Work of Zosimus of Panopolis". Religions. 12 (1008).
  • Viano, Cristina, ed. (2002). Aristoteles chemicus: Il IV libro dei ‘Meteorologica’ nella tradizione antica e medievale. Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag.
  • Viano, Cristina (2006). La matière des choses. Le Livre IV des Météorologiques d'Aristote et son interprétation par Olympiodore avec le texte grec revisé et une traduction inédite de son Commentaire au Livre IV. Paris: Vrin.

Article issues and classification[edit]

Reassess article to C-class, fails the B-class criteria. The "Further reading" section is the worse I have seen with 37 entries. This section is optional and I read that only 3% of Wikipedia articles have this. I am going to leave this ATM but will revisit it. Lacking any discussion on trimming (with a bush hog) I will cut the bottom half off. Also, as maintenance, I will cut all but the top three in the "External links". Three seems to be an acceptable number and of course, everyone has their favorite to add for four. The problem is that none is needed for article promotion.
  • ELpoints #3) states: Links in the "External links" section should be kept to a minimum. A lack of external links or a small number of external links is not a reason to add external links.
  • LINKFARM states: There is nothing wrong with adding one or more useful content-relevant links to the external links section of an article; however, excessive lists can dwarf articles and detract from the purpose of Wikipedia. On articles about topics with many fansites, for example, including a link to one major fansite may be appropriate.
  • WP:ELMIN: Minimize the number of links. -- Otr500 (talk) 07:57, 14 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Article promotion is irrelevant. On a purely formal level this article is much closer to B-Class than to C-Class. But this is a bad article, just like there are many bad GA-Class articles. This does not matter to readers, and since I'm not sure to whom it actually does matter apart from Wikipedia editors, for my part you can assign this article any class you like, from stub to FA.
    Articles aren't good or bad because they meet or do not meet some list of criteria, but because they either have been written and curated by subject experts who know what they are writing about, or by random ignorant people on the internet. And this does affect readers.
    I've renamed the 'Further reading' section to the more fitting 'Bibliography'. If you are an expert on alchemy (I mean just someone who's read a substantial proportion of the sources listed in the bibliography and who might know about other sources, not necessarily a professional academic) and can improve this section of the article, please do so. If you are not and you are just going to arbitrarily 'cut' stuff because you personally think it's too much, then please refrain. Bibliography sections like this are very useful (arguably more useful than the articles themselves in many cases) for people who actually come to Wikipedia as a first stop to start researching a subject. ☿ Apaugasma (talk ) 11:31, 14 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Reply: Some people like order and some people thrive in chaos. There are several areas I excel but concerning wallpaper, I expect I am among the approximately 5 billion unique global "ignorant" visitors to Wikipedia a year. I sometimes reflect on the fact that academia would likely not have an audience were it not for those less learned, ignorant if you will, of certain information yet desiring to know more. Socrates wrote extensively concerning intelligence and ignorance. "There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance." As far as the article, if I see I can make improvements, I will try. -- Otr500 (talk) 18:02, 14 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nobody likes to think that they're ignorant. This doesn't mean that there are no ignorant people, nor that they will not cobble up bad articles when given the chance. I'm not saying that you are ignorant, nor that anyone could or even should keep ignorant people from writing bad Wikipedia articles. God knows that there are many such people, many such articles. All I'm saying is that if one realizes one is ignorant about something, one may find it worth considering leaving the Wikipedia article about that thing alone. It's what Socrates would do. On the other hand of course, academics should less be playing Socrates, and just write Wikipedia articles. But I suspect we agree on that one. ☿ Apaugasma (talk ) 18:36, 14 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
---Thanks. Otr500 (talk) 21:48, 14 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]