Reflections on the Practice of Physics: James Clerk Maxwell’s Methodological Odyssey in Electromagnetism, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Reflections on the Practice of Physics

James Clerk Maxwell’s Methodological Odyssey in Electromagnetism, 1st Edition

By Giora Hon, Bernard R Goldstein


296 pages

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Hardback: 9780367367282
pub: 2020-03-13
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This monograph examines James Clerk Maxwell’s contributions to electromagnetism to gain insight into the practice of science by focusing on scientific methodology as applied by scientists. First and foremost, this study is concerned with practices that are reflected in scientific texts and the ways scientists frame their research. The book is therefore about means and not ends.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

1.1. Methodology: Framing scientific knowledge

1.2. An Overview of Maxwell’s approach to methodology

1.3. Maxwell’s initial publication of 1856 (an abstract)—placing methodology at the forefront

1.4. Methodology as an essential feature of scientific practice: The case of Maxwell

1.5. The argument

2. Maxwell’s choice: Faraday vs. Ampère

2.1. Michael Faraday (1791–1867) and James Clerk Maxwell: A unique relation

2.2. André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836): The contrast

3. Thomson, Stokes, Rankine, and Thomson and Tait

3.1. Introduction: Methodology in electromagnetism

3.2. William Thomson (1824–1907): From analogy to representation

3.3. George Stokes (1819–1903): Idealization

3.4. William J. M. Rankine (1820–1872): Energy—a novel unifying concept

3.5. William Thomson and Peter Tait (1831–1901): Abstract dynamics

3.6. Conclusion

4. Station 1 (1856–1858): On Faraday’s lines of force

4.1. A novel methodology: Modifying the methodology of analogy

4.2. The structure of Maxwell’s argument

4.3. From the general to the specific

4.4. Confronting Ampère’s theory

4.5. Conclusion

4.6. Appendix: A bibliographical note on Maxwell 1858

5. Station 2 (1861–1862): On physical lines of force

5.1. Introduction

5.2. Preliminary: From instrumentalism to causality

5.3. The methodology: Linking hypothesis to representation

5.4. Applying the methodology: Assumptions and their consequences

5.5. Part III: A landmark in the history of physics

5.6. Conclusion

6. Station 3 (1865): A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field

6.1. Introduction

6.2. Part I: Marking the goal—the construction of a formal theory consisting of a set of general equations

6.3. Part II: The flywheel analogy

6.4. The methodology of reversing the argument

6.5. Intermediate summary

6.6. A physical theory in symbolic language

6.7. Conclusion

7. Station 4 (1873): A treatise on electricity and magnetism

7.1. Introduction

7.2. Framework

7.3. Novel methodologies

7.4. The impact of the new methodologies on the construction of the theory

7.5. Conclusion

8. Philosophical reflections on Maxwell’s methodological odyssey

8.1. Commitment

8.2. Modifications of methodologies

8.3. Methodologies in Maxwell’s practice

8.4. Concluding remarks

9. References

About the Authors

Giora Hon is a professor of the History and Philosophy of Science in the Department of Philosophy, University of Haifa.

Bernard R. Goldstein is a historian of science and University Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh.

About the Series

History and Philosophy of Technoscience

Even though technoscientific research is as old as alchemy and pharmacy, agricultural research and synthetic chemistry, philosophers of science had little to say about it until recently. This book series is the first to explicitly accept the challenge to study not just technical aspects of theory development and hypothesis testing but the specific ways in which knowledge is produced in a technological setting. When one seeks to achieve basic capabilities of manipulation, visualization, or predictive control, how are problems defined and research fields established, what kinds of explanations are sought, how are findings validated, what are the contributions of different kinds of expertise, how do epistemic and social values enter into the research process? And most importantly for civic observers of contemporary research: how is robustness and reliability achieved even in the absence of complete scientific understanding?

Editorial Board: Hanne Andersen (University of Copenhagen), Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent (University of Paris, Sorbonne), Martin Carrier (University of Bielefeld), Graeme Gooday (University of Leeds), Don Howard (University of Notre Dame), Ann Johnson (Cornell University), Cyrus Mody (Maastricht University), Maureen O'Malley (University of Sydney), Roger Strand (University of Bergen), Nancy Tuana (Pennsylvania State University).

Direct inquiries to Alfred Nordmann [e-mail link: [email protected]] or Robert Langham [e-mail link: [email protected]].

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
SCIENCE / History
SCIENCE / Physics