Fundamental and accidental symmetries

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The Standard Model of elementary particle physics distinguishes between fundamental and accidental symmetries. The distinction is not based on empirical features of the symmetry, nor on a metaphysical notion of necessity. A symmetry is fundamental to the extent that other aspects of nature depend on it, and it is recognized as fundamental by its being theoretically well-connected. This paper clarifies the concept of what it is to be fundamental in this sense, and suggests broader implications for the analysis of scientific knowledge.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2000

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