PhilSci Archive

What Everyone Should Say About Symmetries (And Why Humeans Get to Say It)

Hicks, Michael (2018) What Everyone Should Say About Symmetries (And Why Humeans Get to Say It). [Preprint]

[img]
Preview
Text
Symmetries Draft 2.pdf

Download (136kB) | Preview

Abstract

The laws of physics have an interesting internal explanatory structure. Some principles explain others; some constraints fall out of the dynamic equations, and others help determine them. This leads to interesting, and non-trivial, questions for metaphysicians of laws. What sort of explanation is this? Which principles are explananda, and which explanandum?

In a recent and insightful series of papers, Marc Lange (2007, 2009, 2011a, 2011b) has discussed these questions in detail, with a focus on the explanatory priority of symmetry principles and their associated conservation laws. Lange argues that symmetry principles are meta-laws: laws governing the laws. The symmetry principles explain the conservation laws by governing them, just as first-order laws explain first-order facts by governing them. He then claims that his metaphysical view of laws can neatly accommodate metalaws but his competitors, namely Humeans and dispositional essentialists, cannot (2009, 2011b).

While I agree with Lange that symmetry principles explain conservation laws, I hold that he is wrong on all other counts. Symmetry principles are not meta-laws: they are first-order generalizations. The explanation of conservation laws from symmetry principles is not a covering-law explanation: it has more in common with reductive explanations of higher-order laws from more fundamental principles. And these facts put him at a loss relative to his primary competitor, the Humean view: this correct account of the explanatory power of symmetry principles falls neatly out of Humeanism, but must be added in post hoc to Lange's view.


Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Hicks, MichaelTownsen
Keywords: Humeanism, laws of nature, symmetry principles,
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Depositing User: Dr. Michael Townsen Hicks
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2018 15:44
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2018 15:44
Item ID: 14473
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Date: March 2018
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14473

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item