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On the Ostrogradski Instability; or, Why Physics Really Uses Second Derivatives

Swanson, Noel (2019) On the Ostrogradski Instability; or, Why Physics Really Uses Second Derivatives. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Candidates for fundamental physical laws rarely, if ever, employ higher than second time derivatives. Easwaran (2014) sketches an enticing story that purports to explain away this puzzling fact and thereby provides indirect evidence for a particular set of metaphysical theses used in the explanation. I object to both the scope and coherence of Easwaran's account, before going on to defend an alternative, more metaphysically deflationary explanation: in interacting Lagrangian field theories, it is either impossible or very hard to incorporate higher than second time derivatives without rendering the vacuum state unstable. The so-called Ostrogradski instability represents a powerful constraint on the construction of new field theories and supplies a novel, largely overlooked example of non-causal explanation in physics.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Swanson, Noelnswanson@udel.edu0000-0002-5950-3863
Keywords: Lagrangian Mechanics, Field Theories, Laws and Meta-Laws, Non-Causal Explanation
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
Depositing User: Noel Swanson
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2019 12:53
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2019 12:53
Item ID: 15932
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
Date: April 2019
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15932

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