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Problems of Theoretical Physics in the Second Half of Nineteenth Century

  • Salvo D’Agostino
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 213)

Abstract

Many traditional histories fail to point out that J.C. Maxwell (1831–1879) was innovative not only in his new field theory of electricity and magnetism, but also in his idea of a physical theory.1

Keywords

Dynamical Explanation Holistic Conception Vortex Theory Normal Sight Theoretical Pluralism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Albert Einstein clearly recognised in various passages the revolutionary import of Maxwell’s theory (Einstein [1949] c) 33).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A clear understanding of Maxwell’s revolutionary view of the relationship between mathematics and physics can be grasped by a comparison between his and Thomson’s views as underlined by Smith and Wise. Thomson went out to slay the nihilist infidels of mathematical as opposed to physical ideas (Smith & Wise [1989] 445).Google Scholar
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    D’Agostino [1968].Google Scholar
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  9. 9.
    Maxwell [1891] [1954].Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Maxwell [1891] [1954] Part IV, Chap. V, § 553, 199.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Maxwell [1891] [1954] Part IV § 554, 199.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Maxwell [1891] [1954] Part IV, Chap. XXI, § 818.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    D’Agostino [1968] b.Google Scholar
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    Maxwell [1891] [1954] Part IV,, Chap. V, § 554, 209. In his review paper, dealing extensively with Maxwell’s dynamical ideas, Norton Wise refers to G.G. Stokes’ distinction between “mechanical” and “dynamical” theories, the latter consisting in a methods that do not require the physicist “to assume either that the ether does or that it does not consist of distinct particles” (Wise [1992] 186).Google Scholar
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    Buchwald [1985], XII. As remarked by Buchwald, historians, physicists and philosophers used to interpret Maxwell’s method as a method mainly based on analogies, thus missing what was typical in Maxwell’s DA.Google Scholar
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    Maxwell [1891] [1954] Part IV, Chap. IV, § 552, 198.Google Scholar
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    Maxwell [189]) [1954] Part IV, Chap. V, § 567, 200.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Maxwell [1891] [1954] Part IV, Chap. IX, § 604, 247. According to Buchwald, the same ideas were shared by the Maxwellian, the physicists who pursued Maxwell’s approach (Buchwald [1985] 96 ff.).Google Scholar
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    Buchwald [198]) 27–33, 37–40, 47.Google Scholar
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    Maxwell [1954] a), Vol.2, 362.Google Scholar
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  28. 30.
    Maxwell, “On Stresses in Rarefied Gases arising from Inequalities in Temperature”, Maxwell [1954] a) Vol. 2, 681–712. Maxwell died in November of the same year.Google Scholar
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  35. 40.
    Heimholte [1878]; Helmholtz [1977].Google Scholar
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  37. 42.
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    Helmholtz [1977] 122.Google Scholar
  41. 46.
    Helmholtz [1977] 118, 119.Google Scholar
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  43. 48.
    For Helmholtz the general form is that schema devoid of any content which he declared “to be the true form of intuition, in respect of which Kant’s doctrine of the’ a-priori is to be upheld”; (M. Schlick, notes to Hermann von Helmholtz Epistemologica Writings, in: Helmholtz [1977] 172, note 33).Google Scholar
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    M. Schlick, notes to Hermann von Helmholtz Epistemological Writings, in: Helmholtz [1977] 172.Google Scholar
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    Hertz [1894], Hertz [1956] Author’s Preface (pages not numbered).Google Scholar
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  53. 59.
    Hertz [1956] 2.Google Scholar
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  56. 62.
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  57. 63.
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  59. 66.
    Hertz [1891], Hertz [196]).Google Scholar
  60. 67.
    D’Agostino [1993] a).Google Scholar
  61. 68.
    Boltzmann, “On the Fundamental Principles and Equations of Mechanics” (1899), in: Boltzmann [1974] 119.Google Scholar
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    D’Agostino [1989].Google Scholar
  63. 70.
    Hertz, “The Forces of electric Oscillations”, in: Hertz [1962] 138.Google Scholar
  64. 71.
    The abolition of sources and of the classical concept of the force-source connection was certainly a paradigm shift of the utmost significance, as can be argued by the resistance it met among traditional physicists. As an example of this resistance, even at a later date, I like to quote Max Laue’s objection to Einstein’s equivalence principle in 1911, when have argues that a gravitational field produced by accelerating frames cannot be real since it has no masses as its sources; in: Einstein, “Dialog über Einvände gegen die Relativität Theorie”, Die Natürwis 6 [1918] 700. Quoted in: Norton [1985]. See also: D’Agostino [1993] a).ADSGoogle Scholar
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    D’Agostino [1990].Google Scholar
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  67. 74.
    Hertz [1962] 3. On this point, see also: Helmholtz’s Preface to Hertz [1956] xi.Google Scholar
  68. 75.
    Hertz [1962] 197.Google Scholar
  69. 76.
    Hertz [1962] 197. Notice that Hertz uses correctness, not truth, concerning the probation value of an experimental confirmation of a theory.Google Scholar
  70. 77.
    Hertz [1962] 197. This conception of the theory-experiment relationship was to be named later as the Duhem-Quine hypothesis.Google Scholar
  71. 78.
    Hertz “On Electromagnetic Waves in Air and their Reflections”, in: Hertz [1962] 136Google Scholar
  72. 79.
    Hertz, “The forces of Electric Oscillations Treated According to Maxwell’s Theory”, in: Hertz [1962] 159. Poincaré argued that Hertz’s experiments were not crucial for Maxwell’s theory. The French scientist believed that a true theory should be crucially tested by an experiment. On this point: D’Agostino [1986].Google Scholar
  73. 82.
    Mach [1926] 2.Google Scholar
  74. 83.
    Helmholtz [1878] 170.Google Scholar
  75. 84.
    Mach, Analyse der Empfindungen, in: Schlick’s notes to Helmholtz (1878) 177.Google Scholar
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    Helmholtz [1878] 172.Google Scholar
  77. 86.
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  78. 87.
    Mach [1943] 253.Google Scholar
  79. 88.
    Mach [1943] 253.Google Scholar
  80. 89.
    Mach [1943] 248.Google Scholar
  81. 90.
    Mach [1943] 248.Google Scholar
  82. 91.
    Mach [1943] 177.Google Scholar
  83. 92.
    Mach [1943] 253.Google Scholar
  84. 94.
    Cassirer [1950] 84.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Salvo D’Agostino
    • 1
  1. 1.Università “La Sapienza”RomaItaly

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