Maxwellian Electrodynamics Genesis and Development: Intertheoretic Context

Rinat Magdievich Nugayev


Key words: rationality, communication, maxwellian revolution, Ampere-Weber research programme, synthesis, Kantian epistemology .

Abstract. Why did Maxwell’s programme supersede the Ampere-Weber one? – To answer the question one has to consider the intertheoretic context of maxwellian electrodynamics genesis and development.

It is demonstrated that maxwellian electrodynamics was created as a result of the old pre-maxwellian programmes reconciliation: the electrodynamics of Ampere-Weber, the wave theory of Young-Fresnel and Faraday’s programme. The programmes’ meeting led to construction of the hybrid theory at first with an irregular set of theoretical schemes. However, step by step, on revealing and gradual eliminating the contradictions between the programmes involved, the hybrid set is “put into order” (Maxwell’s term).A hierarchy of theoretical schemes starting from the crossbreeds (the displacement current) and up to usual hybrids is set up. And after the displacement current construction the interpenetration of the pre-maxwellian programmes begins that markes the commencement of theoretical schemes of optics and electromagnetism real unification.

Maxwell’s programme did supersede the Ampere-Weber one because it did assimilate the ideas of the Ampere-Weber programme, as well as the presuppositions of the programmes of Young-Fresnel and Faraday properly co-ordinating them with each other. But the opposite proposition is not true. Ampere-Weber programme did not assimilate the propositions of the Maxwellian programme. Maxwell’s victory 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. Maxwell did put forward as a basic synthetic principle the idea that radically differed from that of Ampere-Weber approach by its open, flexible and contra-ontological, strictly epistemological, Kantian character. For Maxwell, ether was not the last building block of physical reality, from which all the charges and fields should be constructed. “Action at a distance”, “incompressible fluid”, “molecular vortices” were contrived analogies for Maxwell, capable only to direct the researcher at the “right” mathematical relations.

Namely the application of Kantian epistemology enabled Hermann von Helmholtz and his pupil Heinrich Hertz to arrive at such a version of Maxwell’s theory that served a heuristical basis for the radio waves discovery.

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