On the Persistence of the Electromagnetic Field
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According to the standard realistic interpretation of classical electrodynamics, the electromagnetic field is conceived as a real physical entity existing in space and time. The problem we address in this paper is how to understand this spatiotemporal existence, that is, how to describe the persistence of a field-like physical entity like electromagnetic field. First, we provide a formal description of the notion of persistence: we derive an “equation of persistence” constituting a necessary condition that the spatiotemporal distributions of the fundamental attributes of a persisting physical entity must satisfy. We then prove a theorem according to which the vast majority of the solutions of Maxwell's equations, describing possible spatiotemporal distributions of the fundamental attributes of the electromagnetic field, violate the equation of persistence. Finally, we discuss the consequences of this result for the ontology of the electromagnetic field.