Invariance or Equivalence: a Tale of Two Principles

Synthese:1-21 (forthcoming)
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Abstract
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.
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Archival date: 2021-05-26
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