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A Disconnect: Limitations of the Axiomatic Method in Physics

Elemer E. Rosinger


This paper presents the phenomenon of disconnect in the axiomatic approach to theories of Physics, a phenomenon which appears due to the insistence on axioms which have a physical meaning. This insistence introduces a restriction which is foreign to the abstract nature of axiomatic systems as such. Consequently, it turns out to introduce as well the mentioned disconnect. The axiomatic approach in Physics has a longer tradition. It is there already in Newton's Principia. Recently for instance, a number of axiomatic approaches have been proposed in the literature related to Quantum Mechanics. Special Relativity, [2], had from its beginning in 1905 been built upon two axioms, namely, the Galilean Relativity and the Constancy of the Speed of Light in inertial reference frames. Hardly noticed in wider circles, the independence of these two axioms had quite early been subjected to scrutiny, [5, 3], and that issue has on occasion been addressed ever since, see [8,4,24] and the literature cited there. Recently, [24], related to these two axioms in Special Relativity, the following phenomenon of wider importance in Physics was noted. As the example of axiomatization of Special Relativity shows it, it is possible to face a disconnect between a system of physically meaningful axioms, and on the other hand, one or another of the mathematical models used in the study of the axiomatized physical theory. The consequence is that, seemingly unknown so far, one faces in Physics the possibility that the axiomatic method has deeper, less obvious, and in fact not considered, or simply overlooked limitations. As there is no reason to believe that the system of the usual two axioms of Special Relativity is the only one subjected to such a disconnect, the various foundational ventures in modern Physics, related for instance to gravitation, quanta, or their bringing together in an overarching theory, may benefit from the study of the possible sources and reasons for such a disconnect. An attempt of such study is presented in this paper.

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