Spontaneous symmetry breaking and chance in a classical world

Philosophy of Science 70 (3):590-608 (2003)


This essay explores the nature of spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB) in connection with a cluster of interrelated concepts such as Curie's symmetry principle, ergodicity, and chance and stability in classical systems. First, a clarification of the two existing senses of SSB is provided and an argument developed for a proposal for SSB, in which not only the possibilities but also the actual breakings are referred to. Second, a detailed analysis is given of classical SSB that answers the questions: (i) how we are justified in regarding it as a matter of chance, and (ii) why the breakings in it are equally probable. The answer provides some support to the applicability of ergodicity in special systems (such as ours).

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Chuang Liu
University of Florida

References found in this work

Determinism and Probability in Physics.Peter Clark & Jeremy Butterfield - 1987 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 61 (1):185-244.
Classical Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking.Chuang Liu - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1219-1232.

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Citations of this work

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Spontaneous Symmertry Breaking in Finite Systems.James D. Fraser - 2016 - Philosophy of Science 83 (4):585-605.

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