Maxwellian Scientific Revolution: a case study in Kantian epistemology

Logos and Episteme 5 (2):183-207 (2014)
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It is exhibited that maxwellian electrodynamics grew out of the old pre-maxwellian programmes reconciliation: the electrodynamics of Ampere-Weber, the wave theory of Young-Fresnel and Faraday’s scientific research programme. The programmes’ meeting led to construction of the whole hierarchy of theoretical objects starting from the genuine crossbreeds (the displacement current) and up to usual mongrels. After the displacement current invention the interpenetration of the pre-maxwellian programmes began that marked the beginning of theoretical schemes of optics and electromagnetism real unification. Maxwell’s programme did supersede its rivals because it had assimilated some ideas of the Ampere-Weber programme, as well as the presuppositions of the programmes of Young-Fresnel and Faraday. Maxwellian programme’s victory over its rivals became possible because the core of Maxwell’s unification strategy was formed by Kantian epistemology looked through the prism of William Whewell and such representatives of Scottish Enlightenment as Thomas Reid and William Hamilton. It was Kantian epistemology that enabled Hermann von Helmholtz and Heinrich Hertz to arrive at such a version of Maxwell’s theory that could serve a heuristical basis for the radio waves discovery.

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Rinat M. Nugayev
Moscow State University

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