Are Models Our Tools Not Our Masters?

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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.

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