Symmetry, Structure, and Spacetime, Volume 3 (Philosophy and Foundations of Physics)

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9780444531162: Symmetry, Structure, and Spacetime, Volume 3 (Philosophy and Foundations of Physics)

In this book Rickles considers several interpretative difficulties raised by gauge-type symmetries (those that correspond to no change in physical state). The ubiquity of such symmetries in modern physics renders them an urgent topic in philosophy of physics. Rickles focuses on spacetime physics, and in particular classical and quantum general relativity. Here the problems posed are at their most pathological, involving the apparent disappearance of spacetime! Rickles argues that both traditional ontological positions should be replaced by a structuralist account according to which relational structure is what the physics is about.

· Unified treatment of gauge symmetries and their relationship to ontology in physics
· Brings philosophy of space and time into step with developments in modern physics
· Argues against the received view on the implications of symmetries in physics
· Provides elementary treatments of technical issues
· Illustrates a novel defense of structuralism

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From the Back Cover:

What is physics about? The existence of gauge symmetry in physical theories spoils a nice simple answer to this question since it leads to multiple interpretive options depending on how the symmetry is dealt with. The ubiquity of such symmetries in modern physics makes their ontological implications an urgent matter for philosophers of physics. In this book Dean Rickles argues against the orthodox wisdom about what these implications are. In particular, it is argued that the methods of dealing with the symmetries to not correspond to traditional ontological divisions, between substantivalism and relationalism for example. Rather, there is an underdetermination of metaphysical by physics. Rickles traces this underdetermination through a series of physical theories, from quantum statistics to quantum gravity. On its basis he defends a structuralist account according to which, in these cases, it is relational structure that physics is about.

About the Author:

Dean Rickles's main research interests lie in the general area of philosophy of physics, especially quantum gravity. He recently coedited a book on The Structural Foundations of Quantum Gravity (Oxford University Press, 2006) and has a forthcoming edited philosophy of physics textbook: The Ashgate Companion to the New Philosophy of Physics (Ashgate, 2008).

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