Michele Ginammi (Politecnico Milano - Universiteit van Amsterdam)
"Expecting the Rules of Chess to Reflect Those of the Solar System"
Abstract: According to Steiner (1998), very often contemporary physicists make important discoveries about the physical world by relying on purely formal mathematical ‘analogies’. These ‘analogies’ seem not to be in any sense rooted in the content of the mathematical representations, and therefore raise some epistemological and methodological difficulties: why is this strategy effective and how can we justify it, given that analogical reasoning is not, strictly speaking, logically valid? An example of this “analogical reasoning” is the reasoning that led to the prediction of the Ω− particle by M. Gell-Mann and Y. Ne’eman (1962). In the present talk, I will discuss this prediction and I will offer a logical reconstruction for it that avoids the difficulties raised by Steiner. According to this reconstruction, the analogical reasoning seemingly at work in the Ω− prediction is explained in terms of hypotheses about the relation between the mathematical structure employed and the physical target represented by it. Finally, I will compare this case to other cases of analogical reasoning in science, and I will discuss to which extent this solution can be generalized to offer an answer to the epistemological issues raised by analogical reasoning in science.
Reading: Michele Ginammi, "Avoiding Reification: Heuristic Effectiveness of Mathematics and the Prediction of the Omega Minus Particle", Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Science, 2016: 53 (20-27)