Reduction, Emergence, and Renormalization

Journal of Philosophy 111 (1):5-49 (2014)
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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 to think of scientific explanation as only explaining an individual event, or perhaps a single law, or at most deducing one theory as a special case of another. Here we see a framework in which there is a space of theories endowed with enough structure that it provides a family of reductions.



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Jeremy Butterfield
Cambridge University

Citations of this work

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References found in this work

How the laws of physics lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Structure of Science.Ernest Nagel - 1961 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):275-275.
Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics.Peter Galison (ed.) - 1997 - University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

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