PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Symposium: The Renormalization Group in Particle Physics: Structures, Scales, and (Anti-)Realisms

Saturday, 5 November 2016
09:00 - 11:45

Augusta G (7th Floor)

Chair: Kent Staley, Saint Louis University

This symposium will probe the implications of the application of renormalization group (RG) methods in particle physics for the scientific realism–anti-realism debate and the applicability of mathematics. It is clear that an appreciation of RG methods has the potential to transform the realism–anti-realism debate and our understanding of how and why mathematics is applied in physics, but precisely what conclusions are warranted is far from clear. James Fraser will argue that RG methods underwrite a notion of approximate truth that supports a brand of realism about effective theories that is more full-blooded than alternatives proposed by Barrett and Saatsi. Laura Ruetsche will explore a range of argumentative moves that RG methods open up for the anti-realist. Porter Williams will explain how effective theories support realism. Bihui Li will argue that RG methods are not merely instrumental, but also carry implications for the physical interpretation of QFT, drawing upon Mark Wilson’s account of the historical development of applied mathematics. Doreen Fraser will incline towards an instrumentalist reading of the applicability of RG methods. Michael Miller will defend an interpretation of formal power series as the mathematical objects that have physical meaning in both algebraic and mainstream approaches to QFT.

The Renormalization Group, Approximate Truth and Local Realism
James Fraser, University of Leeds,
Effective theories and ineffective interpretations
Laura Ruetsche, University of Michigan,
Between Instrumentalism and Realism: A Developmental Perspective on the Renormalization Group
Leif Hancox-Li, University of Southern California,
The Applicability of Renormalization Group Methods from the Perspectives of Two Wilsons
Doreen Fraser, University of Waterloo,
Why are there ultraviolet divergences at all?
Michael Miller, University of Pittsburgh,


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