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Renormalization for philosophers

In Tomasz Bigaj & Christian Wüthrich (eds.), Metaphysics in Contemporary Physics. Brill. pp. 437–485 (2015)

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  1. Idealizations and Analogies: Explaining Critical Phenomena.Quentin Rodriguez - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 89:235-247.
    The “universality” of critical phenomena is much discussed in philosophy of scientific explanation, idealizations and philosophy of physics. Lange and Reutlinger recently opposed Batterman concerning the role of some deliberate distortions in unifying a large class of phenomena, regardless of microscopic constitution. They argue for an essential explanatory role for “commonalities” rather than that of idealizations. Building on Batterman's insight, this article aims to show that assessing the differences between the universality of critical phenomena and two paradigmatic cases of “commonality (...)
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  • The Development of Renormalization Group Methods for Particle Physics: Formal Analogies Between Classical Statistical Mechanics and Quantum Field Theory.Doreen Fraser - 2020 - Synthese 197 (7):3027-3063.
    Analogies between classical statistical mechanics and quantum field theory played a pivotal role in the development of renormalization group methods for application in the two theories. This paper focuses on the analogies that informed the application of RG methods in QFT by Kenneth Wilson and collaborators in the early 1970's. The central task that is accomplished is the identification and analysis of the analogical mappings employed. The conclusion is that the analogies in this case study are formal analogies, and not (...)
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  • Relations.Fraser MacBride - 2016 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    In this paper I provide a state of the art survey and assessment of the contemporary debate about relations. After (1) distinguishing different varieties of relations, symmetric from non-symmetric, internal from external relations etc. and relations from their set-theoretic models or sequences, I proceed (2) to consider Bradley’s regress and whether relations can be eliminated altogether. Next I turn (3) to the question whether relations can be reduced, bringing to bear considerations from the philosophy of physics as well as metaphysics. (...)
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  • Effective theories and infinite idealizations: a challenge for scientific realism.Sébastien Rivat - 2021 - Synthese 198 (12):12107-12136.
    Williams and J. Fraser have recently argued that effective field theory methods enable scientific realists to make more reliable ontological commitments in quantum field theory than those commonly made. In this paper, I show that the interpretative relevance of these methods extends beyond the specific context of QFT by identifying common structural features shared by effective theories across physics. In particular, I argue that effective theories are best characterized by the fact that they contain intrinsic empirical limitations, and I extract (...)
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  • A Philosopher's Guide to the Foundations of Quantum Field Theory.Noel Swanson - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (5):e12414.
    A major obstacle facing interpreters of quantum field theory is a proliferation of different theoretical frameworks. This article surveys three of the main available options—Lagrangian, Wightman, and algebraic QFT—and examines how they are related. Although each framework emphasizes different aspects of QFT, leading to distinct strengths and weaknesses, there is less tension between them than commonly assumed. Given the limitations of our current knowledge and the need for creative new ideas, I urge philosophers to explore puzzles, tools, and techniques from (...)
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  • Econophysics: Making Sense of a Chimera.Adrian K. Yee - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (4):1-34.
    The history of economic thought witnessed several prominent economists who took seriously models and concepts in physics for the elucidation and prediction of economic phenomena. Econophysics is an emerging discipline at the intersection of heterodox economics and the physics of complex systems, with practitioners typically engaged in two overlapping but distinct methodological programs. The first is to export mathematical methods used in physics for the purposes of studying economic phenomena. The second is to export mechanisms in physics into economics. A (...)
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  • Scientific Realism and Primordial Cosmology.Feraz Azhar & Jeremy Butterfield - unknown
    We discuss scientific realism from the perspective of modern cosmology, especially primordial cosmology: i.e. the cosmological investigation of the very early universe. We first state our allegiance to scientific realism, and discuss what insights about it cosmology might yield, as against "just" supplying scientific claims that philosophers can then evaluate. In particular, we discuss: the idea of laws of cosmology, and limitations on ascertaining the global structure of spacetime. Then we review some of what is now known about the early (...)
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  • Reduction, Emergence, and Renormalization.Jeremy Butterfield - 2014 - Journal of Philosophy 111 (1):5-49.
    In previous work, I described several examples combining reduction and emergence: where reduction is understood a la Ernest Nagel, and emergence is understood as behaviour that is novel. Here, my aim is again to reconcile reduction and emergence, for a case which is apparently more problematic than those I treated before: renormalization. My main point is that renormalizability being a generic feature at accessible energies gives us a conceptually unified family of Nagelian reductions. That is worth saying since philosophers tend (...)
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  • Duality, Fundamentality, and Emergence.Elena Castellani & Sebastian De Haro - unknown
    We argue that dualities offer new possibilities for relating fundamentality, levels, and emergence. Namely, dualities often relate two theories whose hierarchies of levels are inverted relative to each other, and so allow for new fundamentality relations, as well as for epistemic emergence. We find that the direction of emergence typically found in these cases is opposite to the direction of emergence followed in the standard accounts. Namely, the standard emergence direction is that of decreasing fundamentality: there is emergence of less (...)
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  • The Status of Scaling Limits as Approximations in Quantum Theories.Benjamin Feintzeig - unknown
    This paper attempts to make sense of a notion of ``approximation on certain scales'' in physical theories. I use this notion to understand the classical limit of ordinary quantum mechanics as a kind of scaling limit, showing that the mathematical tools of strict quantization allow one to make the notion of approximation precise. I then compare this example with the scaling limits involved in renormalization procedures for effective field theories. I argue that one does not yet have the mathematical tools (...)
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  • Defining a Crisis: The Roles of Principles in the Search for a Theory of Quantum Gravity.Karen Crowther - forthcoming - Synthese 198 (Suppl 14):3489-3516.
    In times of crisis, when current theories are revealed as inadequate to task, and new physics is thought to be required—physics turns to re-evaluate its principles, and to seek new ones. This paper explores the various types, and roles of principles that feature in the problem of quantum gravity as a current crisis in physics. I illustrate the diversity of the principles being appealed to, and show that principles serve in a variety of roles in all stages of the crisis, (...)
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  • Scientific Realism Made Effective.Porter Williams - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):209-237.
    I argue that a common philosophical approach to the interpretation of physical theories—particularly quantum field theories—has led philosophers astray. It has driven many to declare the quantum field theories employed by practicing physicists, so-called ‘effective field theories’, to be unfit for philosophical interpretation. In particular, such theories have been deemed unable to support a realist interpretation. I argue that these claims are mistaken: attending to the manner in which these theories are employed in physical practice, I show that interpreting effective (...)
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  • Conceptual Aspects of Gauge/Gravity Duality.Sebastian de Haro, Daniel Mayerson & Jeremy Butterfield - 2016 - Foundations of Physics 46 (11):1381-1425.
    We give an introductory review of gauge/gravity duality, and associated ideas of holography, emphasising the conceptual aspects. The opening sections gather the ingredients, viz. anti-de Sitter spacetime, conformal field theory and string theory, that we need for presenting, in Sect. 5, the central and original example: Maldacena’s AdS/CFT correspondence. Sections 6 and 7 develop the ideas of this example, also in applications to condensed matter systems, QCD, and hydrodynamics. Sections 8 and 9 discuss the possible extensions of holographic ideas to (...)
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  • How Not to Establish the Non-Renormalizability of Gravity.Juliusz Doboszewski & Niels Linnemann - 2018 - Foundations of Physics 48 (2):237-252.
    General relativity cannot be formulated as a perturbatively renormalizable quantum field theory. An argument relying on the validity of the Bekenstein–Hawking entropy formula aims at dismissing gravity as non-renormalizable per se, against hopes that d-dimensional GR could turn out to have a non-perturbatively renormalizable d–dimensional quantum field theoretic formulation. In this note we discuss various forms of highly problematic semi-classical extrapolations assumed by both sides of the debate concerning what we call The Entropy Argument, and show that a large class (...)
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  • The dissipative approach to quantum field theory: conceptual foundations and ontological implications.Andrea Oldofredi & Hans Christian Öttinger - 2020 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (1):1-36.
    Many attempts have been made to provide Quantum Field Theory with conceptually clear and mathematically rigorous foundations; remarkable examples are the Bohmian and the algebraic perspectives respectively. In this essay we introduce the dissipative approach to QFT, a new alternative formulation of the theory explaining the phenomena of particle creation and annihilation starting from nonequilibrium thermodynamics. It is shown that DQFT presents a rigorous mathematical structure, and a clear particle ontology, taking the best from the mentioned perspectives. Finally, after the (...)
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  • I Ain’T Afraid of No Ghost.John Dougherty - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 88:70-84.
    This paper criticizes the traditional philosophical account of the quantization of gauge theories and offers an alternative. On the received view, gauge theories resist quantization because they feature distinct mathematical representatives of the same physical state of affairs. This resistance is overcome by a sequence of ad hoc modifications, justified in part by reference to semiclassical electrodynamics. Among other things, these modifications introduce "ghosts": particles with unphysical properties which do not appear in asymptotic states and which are said to be (...)
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  • The Real Problem with Perturbative Quantum Field Theory.James D. Fraser - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):391-413.
    The perturbative approach to quantum field theory has long been viewed with suspicion by philosophers of science. This article offers a diagnosis of its conceptual problems. Drawing on Norton’s discussion of the notion of approximation I argue that perturbative QFT ought to be understood as producing approximations without specifying an underlying QFT model. This analysis leads to a reassessment of common worries about perturbative QFT. What ends up being the key issue with the approach on this picture is not mathematical (...)
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  • Renormalizability, Fundamentality and a Final Theory: The Role of UV-Completion in the Search for Quantum Gravity.Karen Crowther & Niels Linnemann - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axx052.
    Principles are central to physical reasoning, particularly in the search for a theory of quantum gravity (QG), where novel empirical data is lacking. One principle widely adopted in the search for QG is UV completion: the idea that a theory should (formally) hold up to all possible high energies. We argue---/contra/ standard scientific practice---that UV-completion is poorly-motivated as a guiding principle in theory-construction, and cannot be used as a criterion of theory-justification in the search for QG. For this, we explore (...)
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  • Renormalizability, Fundamentality, and a Final Theory: The Role of UV-Completion in the Search for Quantum Gravity.Karen Crowther & Niels Linnemann - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (2):377-406.
    Principles are central to physical reasoning, particularly in the search for a theory of quantum gravity, where novel empirical data are lacking. One principle widely adopted in the search for QG is ultraviolet completion: the idea that a theory should hold up to all possible high energies. We argue— contra standard scientific practice—that UV-completion is poorly motivated as a guiding principle in theory-construction, and cannot be used as a criterion of theory-justification in the search for QG. For this, we explore (...)
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  • Market Crashes as Critical Phenomena? Explanation, Idealization, and Universality in Econophysics.Jennifer Jhun, Patricia Palacios & James Owen Weatherall - 2018 - Synthese 195 (10):4477-4505.
    We study the Johansen–Ledoit–Sornette model of financial market crashes :219–255, 2000). On our view, the JLS model is a curious case from the perspective of the recent philosophy of science literature, as it is naturally construed as a “minimal model” in the sense of Batterman and Rice :349–376, 2014) that nonetheless provides a causal explanation of market crashes, in the sense of Woodward’s interventionist account of causation.
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