Thursday, September 27, 2007

Faraday On Speculation In ‘Natural Philosophy’

It is not to be supposed for a moment that speculations of this kind are useless, or necessarily hurtful, in natural philosophy. They should ever be held as doubtful, and liable to error and to change; but they are wonderful aids in the hands of the experimentalist and mathematician. For not only are they useful in rendering the vague idea more clear for the time, giving it something like a definite shape, that it may be submitted to experiment and calculation; but they lead on, by deduction and correction, to the discovery of new phenomena, and so cause an increase and advance of real physical truth, which, unlike the hypothesis that led to it, becomes fundamental knowledge not subject to change. Who is not aware of the remarkable progress in the development of the nature of light and radiation in modern times, and the extent to which that progress has been aided by the hypotheses both of emission and undulation? Such considerations form my excuse for entering now and then upon speculations; but though I value them highly when cautiously advanced, I consider it an essential character of a sound mind to hold them in doubt; scarcely giving them the character of opinions, but esteeming them merely as probabilities and possibilities, and making a very broad distinction between them and the facts and laws of nature.

Howard J. Fisher

Michael Faraday Wiki Page

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