Foundations of Science

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 181-196

First online:

Symmetry, Quantum Mechanics, and Beyond

  • Elena CastellaniAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Florence

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The relevance of symmetry to today's physics is a widely acknowledged fact. A significant part of recent physical inquiry – especially the physics concerned with investigating the fundamentalbuilding blocks of nature – is grounded on symmetry principles andtheir many and far-reaching consequences. But where these symmetries come from and what their real meaning is are open questions, at the center of a developing debate among physicists and philosophers of science. To tackle the problems arising in considering the symmetry issue is the main purpose of this paper. Starting with briefly recalling the bases for the discussion – how symmetry enters and operates in physics, its special effectiveness in the quantum domain and the many relevant functions it performs (Sections 1–3), the paper then focus on the general interpretative questions that arise and the sorts of answers that have been given (Section 4).

equivalence group theory objectivity observability quantum mechanics symmetry