Building Bridges with the Right Tools: Modality and the Standard Model

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French, Steven
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preprint description
The current state of the relationship between metaphysics and the philosophy of science might appear to be one best described as ‘hostility on both sides’. In an attempt to bridge this gap, French and McKenzie (2013) have suggested a two fold strategy: on the one hand, if metaphysics is to be taken to have something direct to say about reality, the implications of physics need to be properly appreciated; on the other, one does not have to agree with the claim that a prioristic metaphysics should be dismissed or even discontinued, since we should value scientifically disinterested metaphysics as a ‘toolbox’ for philosophers of science. It is in the context of this strategy that I want to approach the issue of understanding the symmetry principles that feature in the Standard Model of modern physics. I shall suggest that the dispositional analysis of laws is incapable of accommodating such principles. However, there are other tools in the metaphysical toolbox that one can draw upon to help capture the nature of such symmetries corresponding to the second part of the above strategy.