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Gauge Matters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

John Earman*
University of Pittsburgh
Send requests for reprints to the author, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, 1017 Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh, PA 15260–6299; email:


The constrained Hamiltonian formalism is recommended as a means for getting a grip on the concepts of gauge and gauge transformation. This formalism makes it clear how the gauge concept is relevant to understanding Newtonian and classical relativistic theories as well as the theories of elementary particle physics; it provides an explication of the vague notions of “local” and “global” gauge transformations; it explains how and why a fibre bundle structure emerges for theories which do not wear their bundle structure on their sleeves; it illuminates the connections of the gauge concept to issues of determinism and what counts as a genuine “observable”; and it calls attention to problems which arise in attempting to quantize gauge theories. Some of the limitations and problematic aspects of the formalism are also discussed.

Research Article
Philosophy of Science , Volume 69 , Issue S3 , September 2002 , pp. S209 - S220
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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