Version: v1, Published online: 1998
Retrieved September 30, 2023, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/field-theory-classical/v-1
A physical quantity (such as mass, temperature or electrical strength) appears as a field if it is distributed continuously and variably throughout a region. In distinction to a ’lumped’ quantity, whose condition at any time can be specified by a finite list of numbers, a complete description of a field requires infinitely many bits of data (it is said to ’possess infinite degrees of freedom’). A field is classical if it fits consistently within the general framework of classical mechanics. By the start of the twentieth century, orthodox mechanics had evolved to a state of ontological dualism, incorporating a worldview where massive matter appears as ’lumped’ points which communicate electrical and magnetic influences to one another through a continuous intervening medium called the electromagnetic field. The problem of consistently describing how matter and fields function together has yet to be fully resolved.
Wilson, Mark. Field theory, classical, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q036-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/field-theory-classical/v-1.
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