Journal Article

Perfect Symmetries

Richard Healey

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 60, issue 4, pages 697-720
Published in print December 2009 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online August 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Perfect Symmetries

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While empirical symmetries relate situations, theoretical symmetries relate models of a theory we use to represent them. An empirical symmetry is perfect if and only if any two situations it relates share all intrinsic properties. Sometimes one can use a theory to explain an empirical symmetry by showing how it follows from a corresponding theoretical symmetry. The theory then reveals a perfect symmetry. I say what this involves and why it matters, beginning with a puzzle that is resolved by the subsequent analysis. I conclude by pointing to applications and implications of the ideas developed earlier in the paper.


Is Faraday in the Same Boat as Galileo?

Empirical Symmetries

Theoretical Symmetries

Explaining Empirical Symmetries


Appendix A

Appendix B

Journal Article.  10166 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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