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

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The Applicability of Renormalization Group Methods from the Perspectives of Two Wilsons

Renormalization group (RG) methods are a set of mathematical techniques that have been widely applied to solve problems arising in contexts ranging from physics to economics to biology. Why are RG methods applicable in this diverse set of cases? My starting point will be some comments made by Kenneth Wilson in his pioneering papers on RG methods. Mark Wilson has argued that applications of mathematics in classical mechanics support mathematical opportunism. I argue that applications of RG methods also display mathematical opportunism, although for somewhat different reasons. I will also offer a preliminary assessment of the implications for scientific realism.

Author Information:

Doreen Fraser    
University of Waterloo


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