Weyl and von Neumann: Symmetry, Group Theory, and Quantum Mechanics

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Bueno, Otavio
preprint description
In this paper, I shall discuss the heuristic role of symmetry in the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics. I shall first set out the scene in terms of Bas van Fraassen's elegant presentation of how symmetry principles can be used as problem-solving devices (see van Fraassen [1989] and [1991]). I will then examine in what ways Hermann Weyl and John von Neumann have used symmetry principles in their work as a crucial problem-solving tool. Finally, I shall explore one consequence of this situation to recent debates about structural realism (SR) and empiricism in physics (Worrall [1989], Ladyman [1998], and French [1999]).