An invitation to approximate symmetry, with three applications to intertheoretic relations

Samuel C. Fletcher

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2 Scopus citations


Merely approximate symmetry is mundane enough in physics that one rarely finds any explication of it. Among philosophers it has also received scant attention compared to exact symmetries. Herein I invite further consideration of this concept that is so essential to the practice of physics and interpretation of physical theory. After motivating why it deserves such scrutiny, I propose a minimal definition of approximate symmetry—that is, one that presupposes as little structure on a physical theory to which it is applied as seems needed. Then I apply this definition to three topics: first, accounting for or explaining the symmetries of a theory emeritus in intertheoretic reduction; second, explicating and evaluating the Curie-Post principle; and third, a new account of accidental symmetry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4811-4831
Number of pages21
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 11 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Nature B.V.


  • Accidental symmetry
  • Approximate symmetry
  • Curie’s principle
  • Intertheoretic reduction
  • Intertheoretic relations
  • Similarity
  • Symmetry
  • Symmetry breaking


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