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When Fields Are Not Degrees of Freedom

Hartenstein, Vera and Hubert, Mario (2018) When Fields Are Not Degrees of Freedom. [Preprint]

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Abstract

We show that in the Maxwell–Lorentz theory of classical electrodynamics most initial values for fields and particles lead to an ill-defined dynamics, as they exhibit singularities or discontinuities along light-cones. This phenomenon suggests that the Maxwell equations and the Lorentz force law ought rather to be read as a system of delay differential equations, that is, differential equations that relate a function and its derivatives at different times. This mathematical reformulation, however, leads to physical and philosophical consequences for the ontological status of the electromagnetic field. In particular, fields cannot be taken as independent degrees of freedom, which suggests that one should not add them to the ontology.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Hartenstein, VeraVera.Hartenstein@math.lmu.de
Hubert, MarioMario.Hubert@unil.ch0000-0002-1170-6020
Keywords: ontology, Maxwell–Lorentz, electrodynamics, initial value problem
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
Depositing User: Mr. Mario Hubert
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2018 17:51
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2018 17:51
Item ID: 14911
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
Date: 13 June 2018
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14911

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