Interpreting Toy Theories, With an Application to Symmetries

David BakerUniversity of Michigan

Tuesday, August 9, 2022
1:00pm–3:00pm (East Coast time)

[Registration Form] (Abstract and Video Below)

• The Foundations of Physics @Harvard series is co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy
• This is a free Zoom event (no registration fee)
• The meeting ID and password will be shared with those who
• Each talk will be 1 hour, followed by a 5-minute break and then 55 minutes for questions

You can find more events in this series in the navigation panel on the left
• You can visit the YouTube channel here

Questions or comments: Jacob Barandes, <lastname>(at) (organizer)

Video (YouTube)


Discussion and Q&A


I define ‘toy theories’ as theories whose laws do not permit the existence of observers. In scientific practice, such theories are often treated as if they have a clear physical interpretation, but on standard philosophical accounts of the methodology of interpretation, it isn't obvious how this is possible. I discern three different senses in which a toy theory could possess a meaningful interpretation, and apply this taxonomy to resolve a disagreement between Gordon Belot and David Wallace on the interpretation of symmetries in toy theories.