, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 3–27 | Cite as

A new perspective on objectivity and conventionalism

Talal A. Debs, Michael L. G. Redhead: Objectivity, invariance and convention: symmetry in physical science, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2007, pp. ix + 194. £24.95, €34.00, US$39.35
  • Antigone M. NounouEmail author
  • Mauro Dorato
  • Sebastian Lutz
  • Stephan Hartmann
  • Talal A. Debs
  • Michael L. G. Redhead
Book Symposium

Antigone M. Nounou

The main theme in Debs’ and Redhead’s book revolves around the question ‘How do symmetries displayed by different media relate to the notion of objective scientific representation?’ In a few words, their answer could be summarized as follows. Invariantism, the position stating that invariance under symmetry transformations is both necessary and sufficient for objectivity, is unattainable. Yet, in cases where only spatiotemporal symmetries are involved, symmetry transformations may be interpreted as changes of perspective. In such cases, invariance becomes synonymous with multi-subjective agreement and, consequently, it can provide necessary and sufficient conditions for objectivity. On the other hand, since invariance is associated with formal ambiguity and conventional choice, it turns out that invariance has to do with convention as much as it does with objectivity.

I am very sympathetic to the authors’ view. In fact, I am impressed by both the modesty with which...


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antigone M. Nounou
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mauro Dorato
    • 2
  • Sebastian Lutz
    • 3
  • Stephan Hartmann
    • 4
  • Talal A. Debs
    • 5
  • Michael L. G. Redhead
    • 5
  1. 1.National Hellenic Research FoundationAthensGreece
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Rome 3RomeItaly
  3. 3.Theoretical Philosophy UnitUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of ScienceTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, Lakatos BuildingLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK

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