Philosophy of Symmetry
Source:Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (2004)
The idea of symmetry is one of the most important and pervasive ideas, occurring in disciplines ranging from the sciences to the arts. Symmetry is manifested very widely in the natural world as seen in the intricate shapes, patterns and colours of both inanimate and animate beings. It is a guiding principle in modern physics and is an integral part of many important works in architecture, sculpture, music, painting and so on. This books discuss some of the essential themes that will help us understand the philosophical foundations of symmetry in all its manifestations. The philosophical analysis is in two parts: metaphysical and phenomenological. The first draws upon metaphysics and considers the relation between symmetry and categories such as objects, form, properties, laws, invariance and change, thereby exhibiting symmetry as an 'essential' property that inheres in objects and processes. This part also discusses in some detail the metaphysics of groups, which are the mathematical objects that describe symmetry in science. There is also a significant phenomenological experience of symmetry, which is captured by the use of terms such as balance, unity, simplicity, beauty, boredom and harmony. The phenomenological analysis of symmetry begins with phenomenology of perception, then considers the relation between Gestalt principles of vision and symmetry, and finally addresses the aesthetics of symmetry, which includes a discussion on the relation between beauty and symmetry.
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