field
A central concept of physical theory. A field is defined by the distribution of a physical quantity, such as temperature, mass density, or potential energy, at different points in space. In the particularly important example of force fields, such as gravitational, electrical, and magnetic fields, the field value at a point is the force which a test particle would experience if it were located at that point. The philosophical problem is whether a force field is to be thought of as purely potential, so the presence of a field merely describes the propensity of masses to move relative to each other, or whether it should be thought of in terms of the physically real modifications of a medium whose properties result in such powers. That is, are force fields purely potential, fully characterized by dispositional statements or conditionals, or are they categorical or actual? The former option seems to require faith in ungrounded dispositions, or regions of space that differ only in what happens if an object is placed there. The lawlike shape of these dispositions, apparent for example in the curved lines of force of the magnetic field, may then seem quite inexplicable. To atomists such as Newton it would represent a return to Aristotelian entelechies, or quasi-psychological affinities between things, which are responsible for their motions (see mover, unmoved ). The latter option requires understanding how forces of attraction and repulsion can be ‘grounded’ in the properties of the medium.
The basic idea of a field is arguably present in Leibniz, who was certainly hostile to Newtonian atomism, although his equal hostility to action at a distance muddies the waters. It is usually credited to Boscovich and Kant, both of whom influenced the scientist Faraday, with whose work the physical notion became established. In his paper ‘On the Physical Character of the Lines of Magnetic Force’ (1852), Faraday suggests several criteria for assessing the physical reality of lines of force, such as whether they are affected by an intervening material medium, whether they take time to propagate, and how the motion depends on the nature of what is placed at the receiving end. As far as electro-magnetic fields go, Faraday himself inclined to the view that the mathematical similarity between heat flow, currents, and electro-magnetic lines of force was evidence for the physical reality of the intervening medium.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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  • Field — (f[=e]ld), n. [OE. feld, fild, AS. feld; akin to D. veld, G. feld, Sw. f[ a]lt, Dan. felt, Icel. fold field of grass, AS. folde earth, land, ground, OS. folda.] 1. Cleared land; land suitable for tillage or pasture; cultivated ground; the open… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Field — (f[=e]ld), n. [OE. feld, fild, AS. feld; akin to D. veld, G. feld, Sw. f[ a]lt, Dan. felt, Icel. fold field of grass, AS. folde earth, land, ground, OS. folda.] 1. Cleared land; land suitable for tillage or pasture; cultivated ground; the open… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Field — or fields may refer to: * Field (agriculture), an area of land used to cultivate crops for agricultural purposes * Field of study, a branch of knowledge * Playing field, in sports, the area in which the sport is played * Visual field or field of… …   Wikipedia

  • Field — (engl. Begriff für Feld) bezeichnet: einen Ausdruck aus der Fernsehtechnik, siehe Halbbild einen Ausdruck aus der Datenbanktechnik, siehe SQL Field ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Albert Field (1910–1990), australischer Politiker Anthony …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • field — [fēld] n. [ME feld < OE, akin to Ger feld, Du veld < IE * pelt < base * pele , * pla , flat and broad > L planus, plane, Gr palamē, flat hand] 1. a wide stretch of open land; plain 2. a piece of cleared land, set off or enclosed, for… …   English World dictionary

  • field — ► NOUN 1) an area of open land, especially one planted with crops or pasture. 2) a piece of land used for a sport or game. 3) a subject of study or sphere of activity. 4) a region or space with a particular property: a magnetic field. 5) a space… …   English terms dictionary

  • field — field, domain, province, sphere, territory, bailiwick are comparable when they denote the limits in which a person, an institution, or a department of knowledge, of art, or of human endeavor appropriately or necessarily confines his or its… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • field — [n1] open land that can be cultivated acreage, cropland, enclosure, farmland, garden, glebe, grassland, green, ground, lea, mead, meadow, moorland, pasture, patch, plot, ranchland, range, terrain, territory, tillage, tract, vineyard; concepts 509 …   New thesaurus

  • Field — Field, v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Fielded}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Fielding}.] 1. To take the field. [Obs.] Spenser. [1913 Webster] 2. (Ball Playing) To stand out in the field, ready to catch, stop, or throw the ball. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Field — Field, v. t. (Ball Playing) To catch, stop, throw, etc. (the ball), as a fielder. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Field — (spr. fīld), 1) John, Klavierspieler und Komponist, geb. 26. Juli 1782 in Dublin, gest. 11. Jan. 1837 in Moskau, siedelte als Kind mit seinen Eltern nach London über, wo er Clementis Unterricht genoß. Er begleitete Clementi auf seinen Reisen und… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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