Authors
Gordon Belot
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Abstract
The classical field theories that underlie the quantum treatments of the electromagnetic, weak, and strong forces share a peculiar feature: specifying the initial state of the field determines the evolution of some degrees of freedom of the theory while leaving the evolution of some others wholly arbitrary. This strongly suggests that some of the variables of the standard state space lack physical content-intuitively, the space of states of such a theory is of higher dimension than the corresponding space of genuine physical possibilities. The structure of such theories can helpfully be characterized in terms of the action of symmetry groups on their space of states; and the conceptual problems surrounding their strange behavior can be sharpened in light of the observation that it is usually possible to eliminate the redundant variables associated with these symmetries-which turn out to be precisely those variables whose evolution is unconstrained by the dynamical laws of the theory. This paper discusses this approach, uses it to frame questions about the interpretation of classical gauge theories, and to reflect (pessimistically) on our prospects of reaching satisfactory answers to these questions.
Keywords Gauge Theory  Symmetry  Symplectic Reduction
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Reprint years 2003
DOI 10.1016/s1355-2198(03)00004-2
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References found in this work BETA

Understanding Electromagnetism.Gordon Belot - 1998 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (4):531-555.
On the Reality of Gauge Potentials.Richard Healey - 2001 - Philosophy of Science 68 (4):432-455.
The Interpretation of Gauge Symmetry.Michael Redhead - 2003 - In Katherine A. Brading & Elena Castellani (eds.), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections. Cambridge University Press. pp. 124--139.
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Falling Cats, Parallel Parking, and Polarized Light.Robert W. Batterman - 2003 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 34 (4):527-557.

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Citations of this work BETA

Time Remains.Sean Gryb & Karim P. Y. Thébault - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (3):663-705.
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A Philosopher Looks at String Dualities.Dean Rickles - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 42 (1):54-67.
Categories and the Foundations of Classical Field Theories.James Owen Weatherall - forthcoming - In Elaine Landry (ed.), Categories for the Working Philosopher. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Change in Hamiltonian General Relativity From the Lack of a Time-Like Killing Vector Field.J. Brian Pitts - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 47:68-89.

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