Why feynman diagrams represent

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 22 (1):39 – 59 (2008)
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There are two distinct interpretations of the role that Feynman diagrams play in physics: (i) they are calculational devices, a type of notation designed to keep track of complicated mathematical expressions; and (ii) they are representational devices, a type of picture. I argue that Feynman diagrams not only have a calculational function but also represent: they are in some sense pictures. I defend my view through addressing two objections and in so doing I offer an account of representation that explains why Feynman diagrams represent. The account that I advocate is a version of that defended by Kendall Walton, which provides us with a basic characterization of the way that representations in general work and is particularly useful for understanding distinctively pictorial representations - in Walton's terms, depictions. The question of the epistemic function of Feynman diagrams as pictorial representations is left for another time.



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Letitia Meynell
Dalhousie University

Citations of this work

The Real Problem with Perturbative Quantum Field Theory.James D. Fraser - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):391-413.
How Do Feynman Diagrams Work?James Robert Brown - 2018 - Perspectives on Science 26 (4):423-442.

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The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science.Nancy Cartwright - 1999 - New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
The Republic.Paul Plato & Shorey - 2000 - ePenguin. Edited by Cynthia Johnson, Holly Davidson Lewis & Benjamin Jowett.

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