It is now standard to interpret symmetry-related models of physical theories as representing the same state of affairs. Recently, a debate has sprung up around the question when this interpretational move is warranted. In particular, Møller-Nielsen :1253–1264, 2017) has argued that one is only allowed to interpret symmetry-related models as physically equivalent when one has a characterisation of their common content. I disambiguate two versions of this claim. On the first, a perspicuous interpretation is required: an account of the models’ (...) common ontology. On the second, stricter, version of this claim, a perspicuous formalism is required in addition: one whose mathematical structures ‘intrinsically’ represent the physical world, in the sense of Field. Using Dewar’s :485–521, 2019) distinction between internal and external sophistication as a case study, I argue that the second requirement is decisive. This clarifies the conditions under which it is warranted to interpret symmetry-related models as physically equivalent. (shrink)
The presence of symmetries in physical theories implies a pernicious form of underdetermination. In order to avoid this theoretical vice, philosophers often espouse a principle called Leibniz Equivalence, which states that symmetry-related models represent the same state of affairs. Moreover, philosophers have claimed that the existence of non-trivial symmetries motivates us to accept the Invariance Principle, which states that quantities that vary under a theory’s symmetries aren’t physically real. Leibniz Equivalence and the Invariance Principle are often seen as part of (...) the same package. I argue that this is a mistake: Leibniz Equivalence and the Invariance Principle are orthogonal to each other. This means that it is possible to hold that symmetry-related models represent the same state of affairs whilst having a realist attitude towards variant quantities. Various arguments have been presented in favour of the Invariance Principle: a rejection of the Invariance Principle is inter alia supposed to cause indeterminism, undetectability or failure of reference. I respond that these arguments at best support Leibniz Equivalence. (shrink)
ABSTRACT In this journal, Middleton and Murgueitio Ramírez argue that absolute velocity is measurable, contrary to the received wisdom. Specifically, they claim that ‘there exists at least one reasonable analysis of measurement according to which the speedometer in [a world called “the Basic World”] measures the absolute velocity of the car.’ In this note, I critically respond to that claim: the analysis of measurement that Middleton and Murgueitio Ramírez propose is not reasonable; nor does it entail that absolute velocities are (...) measurable. (shrink)
Ruetsche () argues that the occurrence of unitarily inequivalent representations in quantum theories with infinitely many degrees of freedom poses a novel interpretational problem. According to Ruetsche, such theories compel us to reject the so-called ideal of pristine interpretation; she puts forward the ‘coalescence approach’ as an alternative. In this paper I offer a novel defence of the coalescence approach. The defence rests on the claim that the ideal of pristine interpretation already fails before one considers the peculiarities of QM∞: (...) there are pre-QM∞ parallels to coalescence. Despite this departure from pristinism, the ‘modest’ view that emerges poses no threat to scientific realism. (shrink)
The distinction between dimensions and units in physics is commonplace. But are dimensions a feature of reality? The most widely-held view is that they are no more than a tool for keeping track of the values of quantities under a change of units. This anti-realist position is supported by an argument from underdetermination: one can assign dimensions to quantities in many different ways, all of which are empirically equivalent. In contrast, I defend a form of dimensional realism, on which some (...) assignments of dimensions to quantities better describe reality than others. The argument I provide is a form of inference to the best explanation. In particular, the technique of dimensional analysis is explanatory, but it is only successful for certain systems of dimensions. Since these dimensional systems support scientific explanations, we have reason to believe that they are real. (shrink)
Physics presents us with a symphony of natural constants: G, h, c, etc. Up to this point, constants have received comparatively little philosophical attention. In this paper I provide an account of dimensionful constants, in particular the gravitational constant. I propose that they represent inter-quantity structure in the form of relations between quantities with different dimensions. I use this account of G to settle a debate over whether mass scalings are symmetries of Newtonian Gravitation. I argue that they are not, (...) but only if we interpret mass anti-quidditistically. This is analogous to anti-haecceitism in the presence of spacetime symmetries. (shrink)
- Emilie du Châtelet offers an interesting and unusual account of the origin of our representation of extension. - She is an idealist about the essence extension, bodies and space, regarding them as mental constructs. - Du Châtelet's account requires a brute fact about the mind, in apparent tension with the Principle of Sufficient Reason.
It is often claimed that one can avoid the kind of underdetermination that is a typical consequence of symmetries in physics by stipulating that symmetry-related models represent the same state of affairs (Leibniz Equivalence). But recent commentators (Dasgupta 2011; Pooley 2021; Pooley and Read 2021; Teitel 2021a) have responded that claims about the representational capacities of models are irrelevant to the issue of underdetermination, which concerns possible worlds themselves. In this paper I distinguish two versions of this objection: (1) that (...) a theory’s formalism does not (fully) determine the space of physical possibilities, and (2) that the relevant notion of possibility is not physical possibility. I offer a refutation of each. (shrink)
Recently, Dewar (2019) has suggested that one can apply the strategy of 'sophistication' - as exemplified by sophisticated substantivalism as a response to the diffeomorphism invariance of General Relativity - to gauge theories such as electrodynamics. This requires a shift to the formalism of fibre bundles. In this paper, I develop and defend this suggestion. Where my approach differs from previous discussions is that I focus on the metaphysical picture underlying the fibre bundle formalism. In particular, I aim to affirm (...) the physical reality of gauge properties. I argue that this allows for a local and separable explanation of the Aharonov-Bohm effect. Its puzzling features are explained by a form of holism inherent to fibre bundles. (shrink)
Although physical theories routinely posit absolute quantities, such as absolute position or intrinsic mass, it seems that only comparative quantities such as distance and mass ratio are observable. But even if there are in fact only distances and mass ratios, the success of absolutist theories means that the world looks just as if there are absolute positions and intrinsic masses. If comparativism is nevertheless true, there is a sense in which it is a cosmic conspiracy that the world looks just (...) as if there are absolute quantities: the comparative quantities satisfy certain relations that only absolutism can explain. I show that such cosmic conspiracies are a pervasive feature of comparativist theories. The argument is structurally similar to the well-known No Miracles Argument for scientific realism. Just as anti-realism cannot explain the empirical adequacy of our theories in general, so comparativism cannot explain the empirical adequacy of absolutist theories in particular. (shrink)
The infamous Hole Argument has led philosophers to develop various versions of substantivalism, of which metric essentialism and sophisticated substantivalism are the most popular. In this journal, Trevor Teitel has recently advanced novel arguments against both positions. However, Teitel does not discuss the position of Jeremy Butterfield, which appeals to Lewisian counterpart theory in order to avoid the Hole Argument. In this note I show that the Lewis-Butterfield view is immune to Teitel’s challenges.
Shifts are a well-known feature of the literature on spacetime symmetries. Recently, discussions have focused on so-called dynamic shifts, which by analogy with static and kinematic shifts enact arbitrary linear accelerations of all matter (as well as a change in the gravitational potential). But in mathematical formulations of these shifts, the analogy breaks down: while static and kinematic shift act on the matter field, the dynamic shift acts on spacetime structure instead. I formulate a different, `active' version of the dynamic (...) shift which does act on matter. (shrink)
It is nearly impossible to open a textbook on Newtonian mechanics without encountering the concept of inertial frames: the frames that are privileged by the theory’s dynamics. In this paper, I argue that extant definitions of inertial frames are unsatisfactory. I criticise two common definitions of inertial frames: law-based definitions, according to which inertial frames are simply those in which the laws are true, and structure-based definitions, according to which inertial frames are those that are ‘adapted’ to spatiotemporal structure. I (...) then offer a new, symmetry-based definition of inertial frames. This definition offers a non-conventional way of specifying the dynamically privileged frames. The result clarifies the foundations of Newtonian mechanics and accounts for the empirical success of coordinate-dependent formulations of it. (shrink)