Are gauge symmetry transformations observable?

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (4):645-665 (2004)
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Abstract

In a recent paper in this journal, Kosso ([2000]) discussed the observational status of continuous symmetries of physics. While we are in broad agreement with his approach, we disagree with his analysis. In the discussion of the status of gauge symmetry, a set of examples offered by 't Hooft ([1980]) has influenced several philosophers, including Kosso; in all cases the interpretation of the examples is mistaken. In this paper, we present our preferred approach to the empirical significance of symmetries, re-analysing the cases of gauge symmetry and general covariance. Direct and indirect empirical significance Global and local continuous symmetries Gauge symmetry 3.1 Local gauge symmetry 3.1.1 Discussion of the first claim 3.1.2 Discussion of the second claim 3.2 Global gauge symmetry Space-time symmetries Direct and indirect empirical significance again Conclusion.

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Author Profiles

Katherine Brading
Duke University
Harvey Brown
Oxford University

Citations of this work

Inference to the Best explanation.Peter Lipton - 2004 - In Martin Curd & Stathis Psillos (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science. Routledge. pp. 193.
Symmetry as an Epistemic Notion.Shamik Dasgupta - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (3):837-878.
Empirical Consequences of Symmetries.D. Wallace & Hilary Greaves - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (1):59-89.
The Essence of Dispositional Essentialism.David Yates - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (1):93-128.
Holism and structuralism in U(1) gauge theory.Holger Lyre - 2004 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 35 (4):643-670.

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References found in this work

Understanding electromagnetism.Gordon Belot - 1998 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (4):531-555.
Dialogue concerning the Two Chief World Systems.Galileo Galilei & Stillman Drake - 1954 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 5 (19):253-256.
The interpretation of gauge symmetry.Michael Redhead - 2003 - In Katherine A. Brading & Elena Castellani (eds.), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections. Cambridge University Press. pp. 124--139.
Gauge Matters.John Earman - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (S3):S209-S220.

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