Unified Theories and Disparate Things

PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994:365 - 373 (1994)
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Some very persuasive arguments have been put forward in recent years in support of the disunity of science. Despite this, one is forced to acknowledge that unification, especially the practice of unifying theories, remains a crucial aspect of scientific practice. I explore specific aspects of this tension by examining the nature of theory unification and how it is achieved in the case of the electroweak theory. I claim that because the process of unifying theories is largely dependent on particular kinds of mathematical structures it is possible to have a theory that displays a degree of unity at the level of theoretical structure without an accompanying ontological unity or reduction. As a result, unity and disunity can coexist not only within science but within the same theory.



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Margaret Morrison
Last affiliation: University of Toronto, St. George Campus

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