Spontaneous symmetry breaking and chance in a classical world

Philosophy of Science 70 (3):590-608 (2003)
Authors
Chuang Liu
University of Florida
Abstract
This essay explores the nature of spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB) in connection with a cluster of interrelated concepts such as Curie's symmetry principle, ergodicity, and chance and stability in classical systems. First, a clarification of the two existing senses of SSB is provided and an argument developed for a proposal for SSB, in which not only the possibilities but also the actual breakings are referred to. Second, a detailed analysis is given of classical SSB that answers the questions: (i) how we are justified in regarding it as a matter of chance, and (ii) why the breakings in it are equally probable. The answer provides some support to the applicability of ergodicity in special systems (such as ours).
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DOI 10.1086/376786
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