Symmetry as an Epistemic Notion

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (3):837-878 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Symmetries in physics are a guide to reality. That much is well known. But what is less well known is why symmetry is a guide to reality. What justifies inferences that draw conclusions about reality from premises about symmetries? I argue that answering this question reveals that symmetry is an epistemic notion twice over. First, these inferences must proceed via epistemic lemmas: premises about symmetries in the first instance justify epistemic lemmas about our powers of detection, and only from those epistemic lemmas can we draw conclusions about reality. Second, in order to justify those epistemic lemmas, the notion of symmetry must be defined partly in epistemic terms. 1 Symmetry-to-Reality Reasoning1.1 A rough introduction to symmetry1.2 The symmetry-to-reality inference1.3 Two questions1.4 Two answers1.5 Preliminary clarifications2 Against Redundancy2.1 Redundancy2.2 Is absolute velocity redundant?2.3 Some redundancies3 Against Objectivity4 From Symmetry to Detection4.1 The epistemic approach4.2 The Occamist norm4.3 From symmetry to detection5 The Meaning of ‘Symmetry’5.1 A framework5.2 Formal definitions5.3 Ontic definitions6 Epistemic Definitions6.1 Taking observation seriously6.2 How things look6.3 Observation sentences6.4 Observational equivalence7 Symmetry as an Epistemic Notion 7.1 Observational equivalence and metaphysics7.2 The Occamist norm revisted7.3 Consequences8 Conclusion.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 93,069

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

What Are Symmetries?David John Baker - 2022 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 9.
The empirical status of symmetries in physics.P. Kosso - 2000 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (1):81-98.
Symmetry arguments in physics.Peter Kosso - 1999 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 30 (3):479-492.
Perfect symmetries.Richard Healey - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (4):697-720.


Added to PP

247 (#85,447)

6 months
24 (#121,446)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Shamik Dasgupta
University of California, Berkeley

Citations of this work

Lawful Persistence.David Builes & Trevor Teitel - 2022 - Philosophical Perspectives 36 (1):5-30.
How to count structure.Thomas William Barrett - 2022 - Noûs 56 (2):295-322.
Sophistication about Symmetries.Neil Dewar - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (2):485-521.
Motivating dualities.James Read & Thomas Møller-Nielsen - 2020 - Synthese 197 (1):263-291.

View all 64 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Every thing must go: metaphysics naturalized.James Ladyman & Don Ross - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Don Ross, David Spurrett & John G. Collier.
Monism: The Priority of the Whole.Jonathan Schaffer - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (1):31-76.
Objectivity.Lorraine Daston & Peter Galison - 2007 - Cambridge, Mass.: Zone Books. Edited by Peter Galison.
Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized.James Ladyman & Don Ross - 2007 - In James Ladyman & Don Ross (eds.), Every thing must go: metaphysics naturalized. New York: Oxford University Press.

View all 38 references / Add more references