Berlin 2014 – wissenschaftliches Programm

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AGPhil: Arbeitsgruppe Philosophie der Physik

AGPhil 6: Quantum-Classical Divide IV

AGPhil 6.3: Vortrag

Freitag, 21. März 2014, 11:45–12:15, SPA SR22

Symmetries and the philosophy of language — •Neil Dewar — University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

This paper looks at how ideas from the philosophy of language can shed light upon the conceptual significance of symmetries in physics.

I begin by reviewing and summarising the case in the literature for believing that unless a quantity is invariant under such symmetries, it is epistemically undetectable. Then, I consider a novel adaptation of the permutation arguments of Quine and Putnam to raise concerns about how we could come to express the physical differences those quantities supposedly signify. This argument also helps to clarify the structure of those permutation arguments, and plausibly provides a clearer example than those considered by Quine and Putnam.

Finally, I turn to the question of what we should say instead. I reject the consensus view that we must seek an alternative theory in which those quantities do not figure; rather, I claim, it is appropriate simply to stipulate that the theory is to be interpreted so that such models are taken to represent the same physical state of affairs. The remainder of the paper is given over to a defence of this claim against objections; and in particular, to exploring an intriguing analogy between models related by a symmetry transformation and synonymous sets of sentences.

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