Unpacking "for reasons of symmetry": Two categories of symmetry arguments

Giora Hon, Bernard R. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hermann Weyl succeeded in presenting a consistent overarching analysis that accounts for symmetry in (1) material artifacts, (2) natural phenomena, and (3) physical theories. Weyl showed that group theory is the underlying mathematical structure for symmetry in all three domains. But in this study Weyl did not include appeals to symmetry arguments which, for example, Einstein expressed as "for reasons of symmetry" (wegen der Symmetrie; aus Symmetriegründen). An argument typically takes the form of a set of premises and rules of inference that lead to a conclusion. Symmetry may enter an argument both in the premises and the rules of inference, and the resulting conclusion may also exhibit symmetrical properties. Taking our cue from Pierre Curie, we distinguish two categories of symmetry arguments, axiomatic and heuristic; they will be defined and then illustrated by historical cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-439
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Unpacking "for reasons of symmetry": Two categories of symmetry arguments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this