International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 22 (2):119-133 (2008)
AbstractThis paper explores the argument structure of the concept of spontaneous symmetry breaking in the electroweak gauge theory of the Standard Model: the so-called Higgs mechanism. As commonly understood, the Higgs argument is designed to introduce the masses of the gauge bosons by a spontaneous breaking of the gauge symmetry of an additional field, the Higgs field. The technical derivation of the Higgs mechanism, however, consists in a mere reshuffling of degrees of freedom by transforming the Higgs Lagrangian in a gauge-invariant manner. This already raises serious doubts about the adequacy of the entire manoeuvre. It will be shown that no straightforward ontic interpretation of the Higgs mechanism is tenable, since gauge transformations possess no real instantiations. In addition, the explanatory value of the Higgs argument will be critically examined.
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