PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Invariance, Interpretation, and Motivation

In this paper I assess the 'Invariance Principle', which states that only quantities that are invariant under the symmetries of our theories are physically real. I argue, contrary to current orthodoxy, that the variance of a quantity under a theory's symmetries is not a sufficient basis for interpreting that theory as being uncommitted to the reality of that quantity. Rather, I argue, the variance of a quantity under symmetries only ever serves as a motivation to refrain from any commitment to the quantity in question. In the process of this discussion, I address the related but importantly distinct issue of when symmetries can be said to prompt a mathematical reformulation of the relevant theory.

Author Information:

Thomas Moller-Nielsen    
Faculty of Philosophy
University of Oxford


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