Philosophy of Physics Graduate Lunch Seminar (Monday - Week 1, HT20)

philosophy of physics grad lunch seminar

In my talk, I will defend the claim that symmetries explain conservation laws. I will discuss the nuances of Noether’s theorem that were raised by Brown and Holland (2004) and Smith (2008), who argue that these subtleties and limitations show that variational symmetries do not explain conservation laws. I disagree and engage with the objections to defend the explanatory claim. By examining the relation between symmetries and conservation laws in the light of these subtleties, we find that they are meaningfully related. I claim that a symmetry is an INUS condition for the corresponding conservation law, in the sense of Mackie (1965). Thus, a symmetry is an insufficient yet necessary part of a complex condition that is unnecessary yet sufficient for the conservation law to hold. It is in virtue of this relation that the former explains the latter. Thus, based on this relation, I propose a new framework for explanation.