History and scientific practice in the construction of an adequate philosophy of science: revisiting a Whewell/Mill debate

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William Whewell raised a series of objections concerning John Stuart Mill’s philosophy of science which suggested that Mill’s views were not properly informed by the history of science or by adequate reflection on scientific practices. The aim of this paper is to revisit and evaluate this incisive Whewellian criticism of Mill’s views by assessing Mill’s account of Michael Faraday’s discovery of electrical induction. The historical evidence demonstrates that Mill’s reconstruction is an inadequate reconstruction of this historical episode and the scientific practices Faraday employed. But a study of Faraday’s research also raises some questions about Whewell’s characterization of this discovery. Thus, this example provides an opportunity to reconsider the debate between Whewell and Mill concerning the role of the sciences in the development of an adequate philosophy of scientific methodology.Keywords: Inductivism; Experiment; Theory; Methodology; Electromagnetism.
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