Philosophy Matters: Steven Weinberg, Reductionism, and Inevitability

Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 74 (1):249-278 (2018)

According to Steven Weinberg, it is the goal of elementary particle physics to search for the final laws of physics, i.e. a simple set of principles from which everything we know about physics can be derived. The main criterion that guides the search for such a set of principles is, according to the author, the sense of inevitability of physical theories, which Weinberg conflates with the idea of beauty. The theoretical physicists’ task is, in this sense, to look for constraining principles, such as symmetries and renormalizability, that increase the sense of inevitability of physical laws. It is the goal of this paper to discuss Weinberg’s arguments in favor of reductionism, as well as his conception of final theory and the associated concept of “inevitability.”
Keywords beauty,  inevitability,  meta-scientific principles,  reductionism,  renormalizability,  Steven Weinberg,  symmetry
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DOI 10.17990/RPF/2018_74_1_0249
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