Symmetries and the philosophy of language

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 52 (Part B):317-327 (2015)
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Abstract

In this paper, I consider the role of exact symmetries in theories of physics, working throughout with the example of gravitation set in Newtonian spacetime. First, I spend some time setting up a means of thinking about symmetries in this context; second, I consider arguments from the seeming undetectability of absolute velocities to an anti-realism about velocities; and finally, I claim that the structure of the theory licences us to interpret models which differ only with regards to the absolute velocities of objects as depicting the same physical state of affairs. In defending this last claim, I consider how ideas and resources from the philosophy of language may usefully be brought to bear on this topic.

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Neil Dewar
Cambridge University

References found in this work

Ontological relativity.W. V. O. Quine - 1968 - Journal of Philosophy 65 (7):185-212.
How to define theoretical terms.David Lewis - 1970 - Journal of Philosophy 67 (13):427-446.
Truth and meaning.Donald Davidson - 1967 - Synthese 17 (1):304-323.
What Scientific Theories Could Not Be.Hans Halvorson - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (2):183-206.
Autobiographical Notes.Max Black, Albert Einstein & Paul Arthur Schilpp - 1949 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 15 (2):157.

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