The epistemology of spontaneously broken symmetries

Synthese 122 (3):359 - 376 (2000)
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Abstract

Spontaneously broken symmetries are often called hidden or secret symmetries. They are symmetries in the laws of nature that do not show up in observable phenomena. This raises the basic epistemological question: Is there reason to believe that these hidden symmetries are real features of nature rather than artifacts of theorizing. This paper clarifies the epistemic status of spontaneously broken symmetries. It presents the details of an argument by analogy that suggests the spontaneously broken gauge symmetry of electroweak interactions, and the subsequent hypothetico-deductive testing of the hypothesis. It is a story of how dubious means can lead to a credible end.

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Citations of this work

The Elusive Higgs Mechanism.Chris Smeenk - 2006 - Philosophy of Science 73 (5):487-499.
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Gauge Symmetry Breaking in Gauge Theories—in Search of Clarification.Simon Friederich - 2013 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3 (2):157-182.
Guest Editor’s Introduction: An Overview of the Epistemological Perspectives on the Higgs Mechanism.Koray Karaca - 2014 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 45 (2):329-333.

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