PHYSICAL CONSTANTS AS IDENTIFIERS OF MODERN UNIVERSAL LAWS OF NATURE
Languages of publication
I argue that in modern algebraic-formulated science the ‘physical constant’ can be understood, for practical purposes, as an ‘identifier’ of a universal law of nature. This identifying role is possible because the concept of ‘physical constant’ fulfils the same need for universality, stability, and fundamentality (as universal laws) for increasing the epistemic value of a scientific theory. This can be demonstrated in two different ways. The first involves a thought experiment envisioning science without physical constants, which appears to be a science of local and particular laws. The second is the observation that physical constants mostly emerge as components in an algebraic formulation of universal laws, but not in the algebraic formulation of particular laws. This observation about the link between physical constants and universal laws of nature, if correct, makes two contributions. First, it clarifies, at least partially, the ambiguity in the use (and the absence) of the concept ‘law’ in contemporary science. Second, it can help in distinguishing between a universal law and a particular law, while avoiding one of the abiding philosophical problems regarding laws of nature — the problem of the ceteris-paribus criterion for a generalization.
325 – 345
Publication order reference