Marc Lange
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Symmetry principles are commonly said to explain conservation laws—and were so employed even by Lagrange and Hamilton, long before Noether's theorem. But within a Hamiltonian framework, the conservation laws likewise entail the symmetries. Why, then, are symmetries explanatorily prior to conservation laws? I explain how the relation between ordinary (i.e., first-order) laws and the facts they govern (a relation involving counterfactuals) may be reproduced one level higher: as a relation between symmetries and the ordinary laws they govern. In that event, symmetries are meta-laws; they are not mere byproducts of the dynamical and force laws. Symmetries then explain conservation laws whereas conservation laws lack the modal status to explain symmetries. I elaborate the variety of natural necessity that meta-laws would possess. Proposed metaphysical accounts of natural law should aim to accommodate the distinction between meta-laws and mere byproducts of the laws just as they must accommodate the distinction between laws and accidents.
Keywords Symmetries  Conservation laws  Noether's theorem  Laws of nature  Natural necessity  Counterfactuals
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsb.2006.08.003
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References found in this work BETA

The World as One of a Kind: Natural Necessity and Laws of Nature.John Bigelow, Brian Ellis & Caroline Lierse - 1992 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43 (3):371-388.
Laws and Their Stability.Marc Lange - 2005 - Synthese 144 (3):415Ð432.
Symmetries and Noether's Theorems.Katherine Bracing & Harvey R. Brown - 2003 - In Katherine A. Brading & Elena Castellani (eds.), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections. Cambridge University Press. pp. 89.

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