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  1. Foundation of Statistical Mechanics: The Auxiliary Hypotheses.Orly Shenker - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (12):e12464.
    Statistical mechanics is the name of the ongoing attempt to explain and predict certain phenomena, above all those described by thermodynamics on the basis of the fundamental theories of physics, in particular mechanics, together with certain auxiliary assumptions. In another paper in this journal, Foundations of statistical mechanics: Mechanics by itself, I have shown that some of the thermodynamic regularities, including the probabilistic ones, can be described in terms of mechanics by itself. But in order to prove those regularities, in (...)
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  • A Matter of Degree: Putting Unitary Inequivalence to Work.Laura Ruetsche - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1329-1342.
    If a classical system has infinitely many degrees of freedom, its Hamiltonian quantization need not be unique up to unitary equivalence. I sketch different approaches (Hilbert space and algebraic) to understanding the content of quantum theories in light of this non‐uniqueness, and suggest that neither approach suffices to support explanatory aspirations encountered in the thermodynamic limit of quantum statistical mechanics.
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  • Proving the Principle: Taking Geodesic Dynamics Too Seriously in Einstein’s Theory.Michael Tamir - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 43 (2):137-154.
    In this paper I critically review the long history of attempts to formulate and derive the geodesic principle, which claims that massive bodies follow geodesic paths in general relativity theory. I argue that if the principle is interpreted as a dynamical law of motion describing the actual evolution of gravitating bodies as endorsed by Einstein, then it is impossible to apply the law to massive bodies in a way that is coherent with his own field equations. Rejecting this canonical interpretation, (...)
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  • What Is the Paradox of Phase Transitions?Elay Shech - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (5):1170-1181.
    I present a novel approach to the scholarly debate that has arisen with respect to the philosophical import one should infer from scientific accounts of phase transitions by appealing to a distinction between representation understood as denotation, and faithful representation understood as a type of guide to ontology. It is argued that the entire debate is misguided, for it stems from a pseudo-paradox that does not license the type of claims made by scholars and that what is really interesting about (...)
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  • Less is Different: Emergence and Reduction Reconciled. [REVIEW]Jeremy Butterfield - 2011 - Foundations of Physics 41 (6):1065-1135.
    This is a companion to another paper. Together they rebut two widespread philosophical doctrines about emergence. The first, and main, doctrine is that emergence is incompatible with reduction. The second is that emergence is supervenience; or more exactly, supervenience without reduction.In the other paper, I develop these rebuttals in general terms, emphasising the second rebuttal. Here I discuss the situation in physics, emphasising the first rebuttal. I focus on limiting relations between theories and illustrate my claims with four examples, each (...)
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  • Idealization.Alkistis Elliott-Graves & Michael Weisberg - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (3):176-185.
    This article reviews the recent literature on idealization, specifically idealization in the course of scientific modeling. We argue that idealization is not a unified concept and that there are three different types of idealization: Galilean, minimalist, and multiple models, each with its own justification. We explore the extent to which idealization is a permanent feature of scientific representation and discuss its implications for debates about scientific realism.
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  • Approximation and Idealization: Why the Difference Matters.John D. Norton - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (2):207-232.
    It is proposed that we use the term “approximation” for inexact description of a target system and “idealization” for another system whose properties also provide an inexact description of the target system. Since systems generated by a limiting process can often have quite unexpected, even inconsistent properties, familiar limit systems used in statistical physics can fail to provide idealizations, but are merely approximations. A dominance argument suggests that the limiting idealizations of statistical physics should be demoted to approximations.
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  • Minimal Model Explanations.Robert W. Batterman & Collin C. Rice - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (3):349-376.
    This article discusses minimal model explanations, which we argue are distinct from various causal, mechanical, difference-making, and so on, strategies prominent in the philosophical literature. We contend that what accounts for the explanatory power of these models is not that they have certain features in common with real systems. Rather, the models are explanatory because of a story about why a class of systems will all display the same large-scale behavior because the details that distinguish them are irrelevant. This story (...)
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  • Physical Emergence, Diachronic and Synchronic.Alexander Rueger - 2000 - Synthese 124 (3):297-322.
    This paper explicates two notions of emergencewhich are based on two ways of distinguishinglevels of properties for dynamical systems.Once the levels are defined, the strategies ofcharacterizing the relation of higher level to lower levelproperties as diachronic and synchronic emergenceare the same. In each case, the higher level properties aresaid to be emergent if they are novel or irreducible with respect to the lower level properties. Novelty andirreducibility are given precise meanings in terms of the effectsthat the change of a bifurcation (...)
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  • The Impossible Process: Thermodynamic Reversibility.John D. Norton - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 55:43-61.
    Standard descriptions of thermodynamically reversible processes attribute contradictory properties to them: they are in equilibrium yet still change their state. Or they are comprised of non-equilibrium states that are so close to equilibrium that the difference does not matter. One cannot have states that both change and no not change at the same time. In place of this internally contradictory characterization, the term “thermodynamically reversible process” is here construed as a label for a set of real processes of change involving (...)
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  • Models in Physics.Michael Redhead - 1980 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 31 (2):145-163.
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  • Explaining Quantum Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking.Chuang Liu & Gérard G. Emch - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 36 (1):137-163.
    Two alternative accounts of quantum spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB) are compared and one of them, the decompositional account in the algebraic approach, is argued to be superior for understanding quantum SSB. Two exactly solvable models are given as applications of our account -- the Weiss-Heisenberg model for ferromagnetism and the BCS model for superconductivity. Finally, the decompositional account is shown to be more conducive to the causal explanation of quantum SSB.
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  • Understanding Electromagnetism.Gordon Belot - 1998 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (4):531-555.
    It is often said that the Aharonov-Bohm effect shows that the vector potential enjoys more ontological significance than we previously realized. But how can a quantum-mechanical effect teach us something about the interpretation of Maxwell's theory—let alone about the ontological structure of the world—when both theories are false? I present a rational reconstruction of the interpretative repercussions of the Aharonov-Bohm effect, and suggest some morals for our conception of the interpretative enterprise.
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  • Superselection Rules for Philosophers.John Earman - 2008 - Erkenntnis 69 (3):377-414.
    The overaraching goal of this paper is to elucidate the nature of superselection rules in a manner that is accessible to philosophers of science and that brings out the connections between superselection and some of the most fundamental interpretational issues in quantum physics. The formalism of von Neumann algebras is used to characterize three different senses of superselection rules and to provide useful necessary and sufficient conditions for each sense. It is then shown how the Haag–Kastler algebraic approach to quantum (...)
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  • Emergence and Singular Limits.Andrew Wayne - 2012 - Synthese 184 (3):341-356.
    Recent work by Robert Batterman and Alexander Rueger has brought attention to cases in physics in which governing laws at the base level “break down” and singular limit relations obtain between base- and upper-level theories. As a result, they claim, these are cases with emergent upper-level properties. This paper contends that this inference—from singular limits to explanatory failure, novelty or irreducibility, and then to emergence—is mistaken. The van der Pol nonlinear oscillator is used to show that there can be a (...)
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  • Turn and Face the Strange... Ch-Ch-Changes: Philosophical Questions Raised by Phase Transitions.Tarun Menon & Craig Callender - 2013 - In Robert W. Batterman (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Physics. Oxford University Press.
    Phase transitions are an important instance of putatively emergent behavior. Unlike many things claimed emergent by philosophers, the alleged emergence of phase transitions stems from both philosophical and scientific arguments. Here we focus on the case for emergence built from physics, in particular, arguments based upon the infinite idealization invoked in the statistical mechanical treatment of phase transitions. After teasing apart several challenges, we defend the idea that phase transitions are best thought of as conceptually novel, but not ontologically or (...)
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  • The Role of Idealizations in the Aharonov–Bohm Effect.John Earman - 2017 - Synthese:1-29.
    On standard accounts of scientific theorizing, the role of idealizations is to facilitate the analysis of some real world system by employing a simplified representation of the target system, raising the obvious worry about how reliable knowledge can be obtained from inaccurate descriptions. The idealizations involved in the Aharonov–Bohm effect do not, it is claimed, fit this paradigm; rather the target system is a fictional system characterized by features that, though physically possible, are not realized in the actual world. The (...)
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  • Spontaneous Symmertry Breaking in Finite Systems.James D. Fraser - 2016 - Philosophy of Science 83 (4):585-605.
    The orthodox characterization of spontaneous symmetry breaking in statistical mechanics appeals to novel properties of systems with infinite degrees of freedom, namely, the existence of multiple equilibrium states. This raises the same puzzles about the status of the thermodynamic limit fueling recent debates about phase transitions. I argue that there are prospects of explaining the success of the standard approach to SSB in terms of the properties of large finite systems. Consequently, despite initial appearances, the need to account for SSB (...)
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  • Models in Search of Targets: Exploratory Modelling and the Case of Turing Patterns.Axel Gelfert - 2018 - In A. Christian, David Hommen, N. Retzlaff & Gerhard Schurz (eds.), Philosophy of Science. European Studies in Philosophy of Science, vol 9. Springer International Publishing. pp. 245-269.
    Traditional frameworks for evaluating scientific models have tended to downplay their exploratory function; instead they emphasize how models are inherently intended for specific phenomena and are to be judged by their ability to predict, reproduce, or explain empirical observations. By contrast, this paper argues that exploration should stand alongside explanation, prediction, and representation as a core function of scientific models. Thus, models often serve as starting points for future inquiry, as proofs of principle, as sources of potential explanations, and as (...)
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  • Curie’s Principle and Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking.John Earman - 2004 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 18 (2 & 3):173 – 198.
    In 1894 Pierre Curie announced what has come to be known as Curie's Principle: the asymmetry of effects must be found in their causes. In the same publication Curie discussed a key feature of what later came to be known as spontaneous symmetry breaking: the phenomena generally do not exhibit the symmetries of the laws that govern them. Philosophers have long been interested in the meaning and status of Curie's Principle. Only comparatively recently have they begun to delve into the (...)
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  • Two Approaches to Fractional Statistics in the Quantum Hall Effect: Idealizations and the Curious Case of the Anyon.Elay Shech - 2015 - Foundations of Physics 45 (9):1063-1100.
    This paper looks at the nature of idealizations and representational structures appealed to in the context of the fractional quantum Hall effect, specifically, with respect to the emergence of anyons and fractional statistics. Drawing on an analogy with the Aharonov–Bohm effect, it is suggested that the standard approach to the effects— the topological approach to fractional statistics—relies essentially on problematic idealizations that need to be revised in order for the theory to be explanatory. An alternative geometric approach is outlined and (...)
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  • Functional Reduction and Emergence in the Physical Sciences.Alexander Rueger - 2006 - Synthese 151 (3):335 - 346.
    Kim’s model of ‘functional reduction’ of properties is shown to fail in a class of cases from physics involving properties at different spatial levels. The diagnosis of this failure leads to a non-reductive account of the relation of micro and macro properties.
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  • The Nature of Model-Based Understanding in Condensed Matter Physics.Sang Wook Yi - 2002 - Mind and Society 3 (1):81-91.
    The paper studies the nature of understanding in condensed matter physics (CMP), mediated by the successful employment of its models. I first consider two obvious candidates for the criteria of model-based understanding, Van Fraassen's sense of empirical adequacy and Hacking's instrumental utility , and conclude that both are unsatisfactory. Inspired by Hasok Chang's recent proposal to reformulate realism as the pursuit of ontological plausibility in our system of knowledge, we may require the model under consideration to be understood (or intelligible) (...)
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  • Galilean Idealization.Ernan McMullin - 1985 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 16 (3):247.
  • How the Tiger Bush Got Its Stripes: ‘How Possibly’ Vs. ‘How Actually’Model Explanations.Alisa Bokulich - 2014 - The Monist 97 (3):321-338.
    Simulations using idealized numerical models can often generate behaviors or patterns that are visually very similar to the natural phenomenon being investigated and to be explained. The question arises, when should these model simulations be taken to provide an explanation for why the natural phenomena exhibit the patterns that they do? An important distinction for answering this question is that between ‘how-possibly’ explanations and ‘how-actually’ explanations. Despite the importance of this distinction there has been surprisingly little agreement over how exactly (...)
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  • Ch-Ch-Changes Philosophical Questions Raised by Phase Transitions.Tarun Menon & Craig Callender - 2013 - In Robert Batterman (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Physics. Oup Usa. pp. 189.
  • Infinitesimal Idealization, Easy Road Nominalism, and Fractional Quantum Statistics.Elay Shech - 2019 - Synthese 196 (5):1963-1990.
    It has been recently debated whether there exists a so-called “easy road” to nominalism. In this essay, I attempt to fill a lacuna in the debate by making a connection with the literature on infinite and infinitesimal idealization in science through an example from mathematical physics that has been largely ignored by philosophers. Specifically, by appealing to John Norton’s distinction between idealization and approximation, I argue that the phenomena of fractional quantum statistics bears negatively on Mary Leng’s proposed path to (...)
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  • Proving the Principle: Taking Geodesic Dynamics Too Seriously in Einstein's Theory.Michael Tamir - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 43 (2):137-154.
    In this paper I critically review the long history of attempts to formulate and derive the geodesic principle, which claims that massive bodies follow geodesic paths in general relativity theory. I argue that if the principle is interpreted as a dynamical law of motion describing the actual evolution of gravitating bodies as endorsed by Einstein, then it is impossible to apply the law to massive bodies in a way that is coherent with his own field equations. Rejecting this canonical interpretation, (...)
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  • The Principles of Gauging.Holger Lyre - 2001 - Philosophy of Science 68 (3):S371-S381.
    The aim of this paper is twofold: First, to present an examination of the principles underlying gauge field theories. I shall argue that there are two principles directly connected to the two well-known theorems of Emmy Noether concerning global and local symmetries of the free matter-field Lagrangian, in the following referred to as "conservation principle" and "gauge principle". Since both these express nothing but certain symmetry features of the free field theory, they are not sufficient to derive a true interaction (...)
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  • Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking in Quantum Systems: Emergence or Reduction?Nicolaas P. Landsman - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (4):379-394.
    Beginning with Anderson, spontaneous symmetry breaking in infinite quantum systems is often put forward as an example of emergence in physics, since in theory no finite system should display it. Even the correspondence between theory and reality is at stake here, since numerous real materials show ssb in their ground states, although they are finite. Thus against what is sometimes called ‘Earman's Principle’, a genuine physical effect seems theoretically recovered only in some idealisation, disappearing as soon as the idealisation is (...)
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  • Critical Phenomena and Breaking Drops: Infinite Idealizations in Physics.Robert Batterman - 2004 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 36 (2):225-244.
    Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics are related to one another through the so-called "thermodynamic limit'' in which, roughly speaking the number of particles becomes infinite. At critical points (places of physical discontinuity) this limit fails to be regular. As a result, the "reduction'' of Thermodynamics to Statistical Mechanics fails to hold at such critical phases. This fact is key to understanding an argument due to Craig Callender to the effect that the thermodynamic limit leads to mistakes in Statistical Mechanics. I discuss (...)
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  • Philosophical Issues Concerning Phase Transitions and Anyons: Emergence, Reduction, and Explanatory Fictions.Elay Shech - 2019 - Erkenntnis 84 (3):585-615.
    Various claims regarding intertheoretic reduction, weak and strong notions of emergence, and explanatory fictions have been made in the context of first-order thermodynamic phase transitions. By appealing to John Norton’s recent distinction between approximation and idealization, I argue that the case study of anyons and fractional statistics, which has received little attention in the philosophy of science literature, is more hospitable to such claims. In doing so, I also identify three novel roles that explanatory fictions fulfill in science. Furthermore, I (...)
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  • On the Paradox of Reversible Processes in Thermodynamics.Giovanni Valente - 2019 - Synthese 196 (5):1761-1781.
    This paper discusses an argument by Norton to the effect that reversible processes in thermodynamics have paradoxical character, due to the infinite-time limit. For Norton, one can “dispel the fog of paradox” by adopting a distinction between idealizations and approximations, which he himself puts forward. Accordingly, reversible processes ought to be regarded as approximations, rather than idealizations. Here, we critically assess his proposal. In doing so, we offer a resolution of his alleged paradox based on the original work by Tatiana (...)
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  • Taking Thermodynamics Too Seriously.Craig Callender - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32 (4):539-553.
    This paper discusses the mistake of understanding the laws and concepts of thermodynamics too literally in the foundations of statistical mechanics. Arguing that this error is still made in subtle ways, the article explores its occurrence in three examples: the Second Law, the concept of equilibrium and the definition of phase transitions.
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  • Point-Particle Explanations: The Case of Gravitational Waves.Andrew Wayne - 2017 - Synthese:1-21.
    This paper explores the role of physically impossible idealizations in model-based explanation. We do this by examining the explanation of gravitational waves from distant stellar objects using models that contain point-particle idealizations. Like infinite idealizations in thermodynamics, biology and economics, the point-particle idealization in general relativity is physically impossible. What makes this case interesting is that there are two very different kinds of models used for predicting the same gravitational wave phenomena, post-Newtonian models and effective field theory models. The paper (...)
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  • Infinite Idealization and Contextual Realism.Chuang Liu - 2018 - Synthese:1-34.
    The paper discusses the recent literature on abstraction/idealization in connection with the “paradox of infinite idealization.” We use the case of taking thermodynamics limit in dealing with the phenomena of phase transition and critical phenomena to broach the subject. We then argue that the method of infinite idealization is widely used in the practice of science, and not all uses of the method are the same. We then confront the compatibility problem of infinite idealization with scientific realism. We propose and (...)
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  • Emergent Physics and Micro-Ontology.Margaret Morrison - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (1):141-166.
  • Falling Cats, Parallel Parking, and Polarized Light.Robert W. Batterman - 2003 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 34 (4):527-557.
    This paper addresses issues surrounding the concept of geometric phase or "anholonomy". Certain physical phenomena apparently require for their explanation and understanding, reference to toplogocial/geometric features of some abstract space of parameters. These issues are related to the question of how gauge structures are to be interpreted and whether or not the debate over their "reality" is really going to be fruitful.
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  • Autonomy of Theories: An Explanatory Problem.Robert W. Batterman - 2018 - Noûs:858-873.
    This paper aims to draw attention to an explanatory problem posed by the existence of multiply realized or universal behavior exhibited by certain physical systems. The problem is to explain how it is possible that systems radically distinct at lower-scales can nevertheless exhibit identical or nearly identical behavior at upper-scales. Theoretically this is reflected by the fact that continuum theories such as fluid mechanics are spectacularly successful at predicting, describing, and explaining fluid behaviors despite the fact that they do not (...)
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  • Nonlocality and the Aharonov-Bohm Effect.Richard Healey - 1997 - Philosophy of Science 64 (1):18-41.
    At first sight the Aharonov- Bohm effect appears nonlocal, though not in the way EPR/Bell correlations are generally acknowledged to be nonlocal. This paper applies an analysis of nonlocality to the Aharonov- Bohm effect to show that its peculiarities may be blamed either on a failure of a principle of local action or on a failure of a principle of separability. Different interpretations of quantum mechanics disagree on how blame should be allocated. The parallel between the Aharonov- Bohm effect and (...)
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  • Understanding Thermodynamic Singularities: Phase Transitions, Data, and Phenomena.Sorin Bangu - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (4):488-505.
    According to standard (quantum) statistical mechanics, the phenomenon of a phase transition, as described in classical thermodynamics, cannot be derived unless one assumes that the system under study is infinite. This is naturally puzzling since real systems are composed of a finite number of particles; consequently, a well‐known reaction to this problem was to urge that the thermodynamic definition of phase transitions (in terms of singularities) should not be “taken seriously.” This article takes singularities seriously and analyzes their role by (...)
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  • The Explanatory Dispensability of Idealizations.Sam Baron - 2016 - Synthese 193 (2):365-386.
    Enhanced indispensability arguments seek to establish realism about mathematics based on the explanatory role that mathematics plays in science. Idealizations pose a problem for such arguments. Idealizations, in a similar way to mathematics, boost the explanatory credentials of our best scientific theories. And yet, idealizations are not the sorts of things that are supposed to attract a realist attitude. I argue that the explanatory symmetry between idealizations and mathematics can potentially be broken as follows: although idealizations contribute to the explanatory (...)
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  • How to Solve the Measurement Problem of Quantum Mechanics.Jeffrey Bub - 1988 - Foundations of Physics 18 (7):701-722.
    A solution to the measurement problem of quantum mechanics is proposed within the framework of an intepretation according to which only quantum systems with an infinite number of degrees of freedom have determinate properties, i.e., determinate values for (some) observables of the theory. The important feature of the infinite case is the existence of many inequivalent irreducible Hilbert space representations of the algebra of observables, which leads, in effect, to a restriction on the superposition principle, and hence the possibility of (...)
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  • Emergence and Mechanism in the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect.Jonathan Bain - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 56:27-38.
  • On the Role of Bridge Laws in Intertheoretic Relations.Sorin Bangu - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (5):1108-1119.
  • Healey on the Aharonov-Bohm Effect.Tim Maudlin - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (2):361-368.
    Richard Healey argues that the Aharonov- Bohm effect demands the recognition of either nonlocal or nonseparable physics in much the way that violations of Bell's inequality do. A careful examination of the effect and the arguments, though, shows that Healey's interpretation of the Aharonov- Bohm effect depends critically on his interpretation of gauge theories, and that the analogy with violations of Bell's inequalities fails.
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  • How Properties Emerge.Paul Humphreys - 1997 - Philosophy of Science 64 (1):1-17.
    A framework for representing a specific kind of emergent property instance is given. A solution to a generalized version of the exclusion argument is then provided and it is shown that upwards and downwards causation is unproblematical for that kind of emergence. One real example of this kind of emergence is briefly described and the suggestion made that emergence may be more common than current opinions allow.
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  • On “Minimal Model Explanations”: A Reply to Batterman and Rice.Marc Lange - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (2):292-305.
    Batterman and Rice offer an account of “minimal model explanations” and argue against “common features accounts” of those explanations. This paper offers some objections to their proposals and arguments. It argues that their proposal cannot account for the apparent explanatory asymmetry of minimal model explanations. It argues that their account threatens ultimately to collapse into a “common features account.” Finally, it argues against their motivation for thinking that an explanation appealing to “common features” would have to explain the common features’ (...)
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  • Fiction, Depiction, and the Complementarity Thesis in Art and Science.Elay Shech - 2016 - The Monist 99 (3):311-332.
    In this paper, I appeal to a distinction made by David Lewis between identifying and determining semantic content in order to defend a complementarity thesis expressed by Anjan Chakravartty. The thesis states that there is no conflict between informational and functional views of scientific modeling and representation. I then apply the complementarity thesis to well-received theories of pictorial representation, thereby stressing the fruitfulness of drawing an analogy between the nature of fictions in art and in science. I end by attending (...)
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  • Foundation of Statistical Mechanics: Mechanics by Itself.Orly Shenker - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (12):e12465.
    Statistical mechanics is a strange theory. Its aims are debated, its methods are contested, its main claims have never been fully proven, and their very truth is challenged, yet at the same time, it enjoys huge empirical success and gives us the feeling that we understand important phenomena. What is this weird theory, exactly? Statistical mechanics is the name of the ongoing attempt to apply mechanics, together with some auxiliary hypotheses, to explain and predict certain phenomena, above all those described (...)
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