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Haag’s Theorem, Apparent Inconsistency, and the Empirical Adequacy of Quantum Field Theory

Haag’s Theorem, Apparent Inconsistency, and the Empirical Adequacy of Quantum Field Theory Haag’s theorem has been interpreted as establishing that quantum field theory cannot consistently represent interacting fields. Earman and Fraser have clarified how it is possible to give mathematically consistent calculations in scattering theory despite the theorem. However, their analysis does not fully address the worry raised by the result. In particular, I argue that their approach fails to be a complete explanation of why Haag’s theorem does not undermine claims about the empirical adequacy of particular quantum field theories. I then show that such empirical adequacy claims are protected from Haag’s result by the techniques that are required to obtain theoretical predictions for realistic experimental observables. I conclude by showing how Haag’s theorem is illustrative of a general tension between the foundational significance of results that can be obtained in perturbation theory and non-perturbative characterizations of the content of quantum field theory.1 Introduction2 Haag’s Theorem and the Interaction Picture3 Earman and Fraser on the Success of Scattering Theory4 Haag’s Theorem and Empirical Adequacy5 Conclusion http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Oxford University Press

Haag’s Theorem, Apparent Inconsistency, and the Empirical Adequacy of Quantum Field Theory

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0007-0882
eISSN
1464-3537
DOI
10.1093/bjps/axw029
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Haag’s theorem has been interpreted as establishing that quantum field theory cannot consistently represent interacting fields. Earman and Fraser have clarified how it is possible to give mathematically consistent calculations in scattering theory despite the theorem. However, their analysis does not fully address the worry raised by the result. In particular, I argue that their approach fails to be a complete explanation of why Haag’s theorem does not undermine claims about the empirical adequacy of particular quantum field theories. I then show that such empirical adequacy claims are protected from Haag’s result by the techniques that are required to obtain theoretical predictions for realistic experimental observables. I conclude by showing how Haag’s theorem is illustrative of a general tension between the foundational significance of results that can be obtained in perturbation theory and non-perturbative characterizations of the content of quantum field theory.1 Introduction2 Haag’s Theorem and the Interaction Picture3 Earman and Fraser on the Success of Scattering Theory4 Haag’s Theorem and Empirical Adequacy5 Conclusion

Journal

The British Journal for the Philosophy of ScienceOxford University Press

Published: Sep 1, 2018

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