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The Double Nature of Maxwell's Physical Analogies

Nappo, Francesco (2021) The Double Nature of Maxwell's Physical Analogies. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Building upon work by Mary Hesse (1974), this paper aims to show that a single method lies behind Maxwell’s use of physical analogies in his major scientific works before the Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. Key to understanding the operation of this method of investigation is to recognize that Maxwell’s physical analogies are intended to possess an ‘inductive’ function in addition to an ‘illustrative’ one. That is to say, they not only serve to clarify the equations proposed for an unfamiliar domain with a working physical interpretation drawn from a more familiar science, but can also be sources of defeasible yet relatively strong arguments from features of the more familiar domain to features of the less. Compared with the reconstructions by Achinstein (1991), Siegel (1991), Harman (1998) and others, which postulate a discontinuity in Maxwell’s approach to physical analogy, the account defended in this paper i) makes sense of the continuity in Maxwell’s remarks on scientific methodology, ii) explains his quest for a “mathematical classification of physical quantities” and iii) offers a new and more plausible interpretation of the debated episode of the introduction of the displacement current in Maxwell’s “On Physical Lines of Forces”.


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Item Type: Preprint
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Nappo, Francesco
Additional Information: Published in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A, 2021.
Keywords: Analogical Reasoning, James Clerk Maxwell, Mary Hesse, Physical Analogies, Scientific Methodology
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Fields and Particles
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Natural Kinds
Depositing User: Dr. Francesco Nappo
Date Deposited: 06 Oct 2021 12:21
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2021 12:21
Item ID: 19641
Official URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/...
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Fields and Particles
General Issues > Models and Idealization
General Issues > Natural Kinds
Date: 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19641

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