Fundamentality, Effectiveness, and Objectivity of Gauge Symmetries

Aldo Filomeno
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso
UNOFFICIAL ABSTRACT It is not clear (to me at least) whether certain metaphysical questions really demand explanation. In this article I propose an argument for why fundamental laws of nature (of a form similar to those of the Standard Model) would welcome an explanation. The argument relies on Curie's first principle and on a feature of the current laws of particle physics. I also argue that this feature allows us to understand the ``unreasonable'' effectiveness of mathematics in physics (5.2) and to demistify any objectivity of these laws vindicated by ontic structural realists (5.3). ABSTRACT Much recent philosophy of physics has investigated the process of symmetry breaking. Here, I critically assess the alleged symmetry restoration at the fundamental scale. I draw attention to the contingency that gauge symmetries exhibit, that is, the fact that they have been chosen from an infinite space of possibilities. I appeal to this feature of group theory to argue that any metaphysical account of fundamental laws that expects symmetry restoration up to the fundamental level is not fully satisfactory. This is a symmetry argument in line with Curie’s first principle. Further, I argue that this same feature of group theory helps to explain the ‘unreasonable’ effectiveness of mathematics in physics, and that it reduces the philosophical significance that has been attributed to the objectivity of gauge symmetries.
Keywords Laws of Nature  Symmetry argument  Symmetry restoration  Gauge Symmetry  Scientific Explanation
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DOI 10.1080/02698595.2016.1240459
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