Margaret Morrison
University of Toronto, St. George
One of the hallmarks of Kantian philosophy, especially in connection with its characterization of scientific knowledge, is the importance of unity, a theme that is also the driving force behind a good deal of contemporary high energy physics. There are a variety of ways that unity figures in modern science—there is unity of method where the same kinds of mathematical techniques are used in different sciences, like physics and biology; the search for unified theories like the unification of electromagnetism and optics by Maxwell; and, more recently, the project of grand unification or the quest for a theory of everything which involves a reduction of the four fundamental forces under the umbrella of a single theory. In this latter case it is thought that when energies are high enough, the forces, while very different in strength, range and the types of particles on which they act, become one and the same force. The fact that these interactions are known to have many underlying mathematical features in common suggests that they can all be described by a unified field theory. Such a theory describes elementary particles in terms of force fields which further unifies all the interactions by treating particles and interactions in a technically and conceptually similar way. It is this theoretical framework that allows for the prediction that measurements made at a certain energy level will supposedly indicate that there is only one type of force. In other words, not only is there an ontological reduction of the forces themselves but the mathematical framework used to describe the fields associated with these forces facilitates their description in a unified theory. Specific types of symmetries serve an important function in establishing these kinds of unity, not only in the construction of quantum field theories but also in the classification of particles; classifications that can lead to new predictions and new ways of understanding properties like quantum numbers. Hence, in order to address issues about unification and reduction in contemporary physics we must also address the way that symmetries facilitate these processes.
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DOI 10.1017/S1358246108000039
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References found in this work BETA

Opus Postumum.Jeffrey Edwards, Immanuel Kant, Eckart Forster & Michael Rosen - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (2):280.

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