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

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Between Instrumentalism and Realism: A Developmental Perspective on the Renormalization Group

I look at the renormalization group (RG) in quantum field theory (QFT) in a developmental context to illuminate an outstanding debate about whether the RG is merely instrumental. In a developmental view of QFT, the dichotomy between what’s real and what’s instrumental becomes less clear. In Mark Wilson’s account of a canonical pattern of development in mathematics, techniques that appear to be mere predictive instruments can have broader foundational significance. Wilson’s account fits the development of the RG in QFT and gives one perspective on how it may be more than a mere instrument of prediction.

Author Information:

Leif Hancox-Li    
University of Southern California


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