Abstract

John Herschel's discussion of hypotheses in the Preliminary Discourse on Natural Philosophy has generated questions concerning his commitment to the principle that hypothetical speculation is legitimate only if warranted by inductive evidence. While Herschel explicitly articulates an inductivist philosophy of science, he also asserts that “it matters little how {a hypothesis or theory} has been originally framed” when it can withstand extensive testing and empirical scrutiny. This evidence has convinced some that Herschel endorses an early form of hypothetico-deductivism. I aim to clarify this interpretive puzzle and adduce evidence in support of the inductivist interpretation of Herschel's philosophy of science by examining his published account of a series of experiments in the domain of electromagnetism.

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