The gauge argument: A Noether Reason

In James Read & Nicholas J. Teh (eds.), The physics and philosophy of Noether's theorems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 354-377 (2022)
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Why is gauge symmetry so important in modern physics, given that one must eliminate it when interpreting what the theory represents? In this paper we discuss the sense in which gauge symmetry can be fruitfully applied to constrain the space of possible dynamical models in such a way that forces and charges are appropriately coupled. We review the most well-known application of this kind, known as the 'gauge argument' or 'gauge principle', discuss its difficulties, and then reconstruct the gauge argument as a valid theorem in quantum theory. We then present what we take to be a better and more general gauge argument, based on Noether's second theorem in classical Lagrangian field theory, and argue that this provides a more appropriate framework for understanding how gauge symmetry helps to constrain the dynamics of physical theories.

Author Profiles

Jeremy Butterfield
Cambridge University
Bryan W. Roberts
London School of Economics
Henrique Gomes
Cambridge University


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