Holism and structuralism in U(1) gauge theory

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 35 (4):643-670 (2004)
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Abstract

After decades of neglect philosophers of physics have discovered gauge theories--arguably the paradigm of modern field physics--as a genuine topic for foundational and philosophical research. Incidentally, in the last couple of years interest from the philosophy of physics in structural realism--in the eyes of its proponents the best suited realist position towards modern physics--has also raised. This paper tries to connect both topics and aims to show that structural realism gains further credence from an ontological analysis of gauge theories--in particular U(1) gauge theory. In the first part of the paper the framework of fiber bundle gauge theories is briefly presented and the interpretation of local gauge symmetry will be examined. In the second part, an ontological underdetermination of gauge theories is carved out by considering the various kinds of non-locality involved in such typical effects as the Aharonov-Bohm effect. The analysis shows that the peculiar form of non-separability figuring in gauge theories is a variant of spatiotemporal holism and can be distinguished from quantum theoretic holism. In the last part of the paper the arguments for a gauge theoretic support of structural realism are laid out and discussed.

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Holger Lyre
Otto von Guericke Universit├Ąt, Magdeburg

Citations of this work

Priority and Particle Physics: Ontic Structural Realism as a Fundamentality Thesis.Kerry McKenzie - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (2):353-380.
Structuralism in the Idiom of Determination.Kerry McKenzie - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):497-522.
Ontic structural realism as a metaphysics of objects.Michael Esfeld & Vincent Lam - 2011 - In Alisa Bokulich & Peter Bokulich (eds.), Scientific Structuralism. Springer Science+Business Media. pp. 143-159.
Identity and individuality in quantum theory.Steven French - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

A confutation of convergent realism.Larry Laudan - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (1):19-49.
What is structural realism?James Ladyman - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (3):409-424.
A Confutation of Convergent Realism.Larry Laudan - 1980 - In Yuri Balashov & Alexander Rosenberg (eds.), Philosophy of Science: Contemporary Readings. Routledge. pp. 211.

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