The epistemology of spontaneously broken symmetries

Synthese 122 (3):359 - 376 (2000)
Spontaneously broken symmetries are often called hidden or secret symmetries. They are symmetries in the laws of nature that do not show up in observable phenomena. This raises the basic epistemological question: Is there reason to believe that these hidden symmetries are real features of nature rather than artifacts of theorizing. This paper clarifies the epistemic status of spontaneously broken symmetries. It presents the details of an argument by analogy that suggests the spontaneously broken gauge symmetry of electroweak interactions, and the subsequent hypothetico-deductive testing of the hypothesis. It is a story of how dubious means can lead to a credible end.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
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DOI 10.2307/20118259
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Koray Karaca (2013). The Construction of the Higgs Mechanism and the Emergence of the Electroweak Theory. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (1):1-16.
Chris Smeenk (2006). The Elusive Higgs Mechanism. Philosophy of Science 73 (5):487-499.
Koray Karaca (2014). Guest Editor’s Introduction: An Overview of the Epistemological Perspectives on the Higgs Mechanism. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 45 (2):329-333.
Sébastien Rivat (2014). On the Heuristics of the Higgs Mechanism. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 45 (2):351-367.

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