Faraday: Unification of Paradigm
Michael Faraday: Electricity
Electracy (the term) joins electricity and trace to name the digital apparatus. Michael Faraday made a major contribution to the science and technology of electracy (he is considered to be the first electrical engineer). His work exemplifies a principle of heuretics regarding the transdisciplinary character of creativity. His discovery of the unity of electricity and magnetism was guided by a themata (Holton)–the unification of all forces in the cosmos–which directed his empirical work. The following passage holds a place for further discussion.
But Faraday was not wholly without philosophical intent. As a young man, he became enamored of a version of Kant’s philosophy extolled with great force by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was based on the universe being filled with a web of attractive and repulsive forces, convertible one into the other, with their total being conserved. At the bottom, this cosmic web was woven by God. Everything is here in nascent form, including forces to fill the vacuum, as well as conservation of energy. Faraday was particularly taken by Coleridge’s statement that “Things identical must be convertible.” He believed a relation between electrical and magnetic forces had to exist. As Faraday’s biographer L. Pierce Williams writes, “It was the conviction that forces were inherently identical and convertible that inspired Michael Faraday during the major portion of his scientific career.” (Arthur I. Miller, Insights of Genius: Imagery and Creativity in Science and Art, MIT Press, 2000: 102).
The immediate point to register is to extend the unification of forces (energy) into the cultural and human realm, with respect to the axis of attraction-repulsion as organizing electracy, including the libidinal economy of desire. An abstract of an essay by Williams notes a further correlation of Faraday with the metaphysics structuring konsult as pedagogy: Capabilities.
This chapter focuses on epistemology and the experimental methods used by Michael Faraday. The methods of all sciences are identical. These methods include observation of facts, comparison and classification of facts, deduction of facts, and verification of results. Science guided Faraday throughout his life. It must have infuriated his contemporaries that the foremost experimentalist of the nineteenth century rejected the prevalent theories of experimental method. In fact, Faraday’s scientific career was founded upon a rather simple, but fundamentally important, concept of the mind and its faculties. The mind consists of basically three faculties—the senses, the judgment, and the imagination. The senses provide the mind with the raw material for its operations but this is not automatic or mechanical. The mind has to be carefully trained in the reception of sense impressions or else it will err in its judgments. (“Epistemoloogy and Experiment: the Case of Michael Faraday,” Studies in Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics, Vol 49, 1968).