The modular structure of physical theories

Synthese 162 (2):195 - 223 (2008)
Any advanced theory of physics contains modules defined as essential components that are themselves theories with different domains of application. Different kinds of modules can be distinguished according to the way in which they fit in the symbolic and interpretive apparatus of a theory. The number and kind of the modules of a given theory vary as the theory evolves in time. The relative stability of modules and the variability of their insertion in other theories play a vital role in the application, comparison, construction, and communication of theories. Modularity conveys some global unity to physics through the sharing of modules by diverse theories. This alternative to rigid hierarchies and holistic totalities permits a dynamical, plastic, and symbiotic approach to physical theory.
Keywords Structure of physical theories  Modules  Unity/disunity
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DOI 10.2307/27653723
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