The Real Problem with Perturbative Quantum Field Theory

The Real Problem with Perturbative Quantum Field Theory Abstract The perturbative approach to quantum field theory (QFT) has long been viewed with suspicion by philosophers of science. This paper offers a diagnosis of its conceptual problems. Drawing on Norton’s ([2012]) 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 rigour, or the threat of inconsistency, but the need for a physical explanation of its empirical success. © The Author 2017. 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 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Oxford University Press

The Real Problem with Perturbative Quantum Field Theory

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2017. 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
D.O.I.
10.1093/bjps/axx042
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract The perturbative approach to quantum field theory (QFT) has long been viewed with suspicion by philosophers of science. This paper offers a diagnosis of its conceptual problems. Drawing on Norton’s ([2012]) 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 rigour, or the threat of inconsistency, but the need for a physical explanation of its empirical success. © The Author 2017. 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

Journal

The British Journal for the Philosophy of ScienceOxford University Press

Published: Aug 23, 2017

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