Quantum field theory: Underdetermination, inconsistency, and idealization

Philosophy of Science 76 (4):536-567 (2009)
Quantum field theory (QFT) presents a genuine example of the underdetermination of theory by empirical evidence. There are variants of QFT—for example, the standard textbook formulation and the rigorous axiomatic formulation—that are empirically indistinguishable yet support different interpretations. This case is of particular interest to philosophers of physics because, before the philosophical work of interpreting QFT can proceed, the question of which variant should be subject to interpretation must be settled. New arguments are offered for basing the interpretation of QFT on a rigorous axiomatic variant of the theory. The pivotal considerations are the roles that consistency and idealization play in this case. *Received June 2009; revised August 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada; e‐mail: dlfraser@uwaterloo.ca.
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DOI 10.1086/649999
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Steven French (2012). Unitary Inequivalence as a Problem for Structural Realism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 43 (2):121-136.
Vincent Lam (2013). The Entanglement Structure of Quantum Field Systems. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 27 (1):59 - 72.

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