Interpreting effective field theories

An effective field theory <span class='Hi'></span>(EFT)<span class='Hi'></span> is a theory of the dynamics of a physical system at energies small compared to a given cut-off.<span class='Hi'></span> Low-energy states with respect to this cut-off are effectively independent of states at high energies;<span class='Hi'></span> hence one may study the low-energy dynamics without the need for a detailed description of the high-energy dynamics.<span class='Hi'></span> Many authors have suggested that,<span class='Hi'></span> because of the essential role the cut-off plays in the standard <span class='Hi'></span>(Wilsonian)<span class='Hi'></span> method of constructing an EFT,<span class='Hi'></span> an appropriate interpretation of an EFT requires a realistic interpretation of the cut-off.<span class='Hi'></span> For some,<span class='Hi'></span> this suggests an ontology of <span class='Hi'></span>"quasi-autonomous domains"<span class='Hi'></span> (Cao and Schweber 1993)<span class='Hi'></span>; for others,<span class='Hi'></span> it suggests an ontology in which space is discrete and finite <span class='Hi'></span>(Fraser 2009)<span class='Hi'></span>; and for yet others,<span class='Hi'></span> it suggests that EFTs engage in idealizations and are inherently approximate <span class='Hi'></span>(Fraser 2009,<span class='Hi'></span> Castellani 2002)<span class='Hi'></span>. I argue that these interpretations are not forced upon us,<span class='Hi'></span> in so far as there is an alternative to the Wilsonian method for constructing an EFT that does not explicitly employ a cut-off.
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