Philosophical issues in electromagnetism

Philosophy Compass 4 (1):255-270 (2009)
This paper provides a survey of several philosophical issues arising in classical electrodynamics arguing that there is a philosophically rich set of problems in theories of classical physics that have not yet received the attention by philosophers that they deserve. One issue, which is connected to the philosophy of causation, concerns the temporal asymmetry exhibited by radiation fields in the presence of wave sources. Physicists and philosophers disagree on whether this asymmetry reflects a fundamental causal asymmetry or is due to statistical or thermodynamic considerations. I suggest that an explanation appealing to the asymmetry of causation is more promising. Another issue concerns the conceptual structure of the theory. Despite its empirical success, classical electrodynamics faces serious foundational problems. Models of charged particles involve what by the theory's own lights are idealizations, I maintain, and this is a feature that is not readily captured by traditional philosophical accounts of scientific theories. Other issues I discuss concern (i) the relation between Lorentz's theory of the electron and Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity; (ii) the notion of the domain of a theory, the question of theory reduction, and the relation between classical and more fundamental quantum theories; and (iii) the role of locality constraints, their relation to the concept of causation; and the status of locality conditions in the semi-classical theory of the Aharanov-Bohm effect.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2008.00192.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,831
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 26 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Mathias Frisch (2013). Conceptual Problems in Classical Electrodynamics: No More Toils and Trouble? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (4):527-531.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

118 ( #18,669 of 1,724,890 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #210,938 of 1,724,890 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.