Edited by Susan Fowler (University of Pennsylvania)
|Summary||Quantum field theory (QFT) is the framework of elementary particle physics; it is, in a nutshell, a mathematical framework in which one does quantum mechanics on fields. The metaphysical implications of quantum field theory are of particular interest to philosophers, and in the current literature there are two mainstream opposing views regarding the correct ontology of quantum field theory. According to one, the correct ontology of quantum field theory consists of point particles only, they are real, and fundamental, and fields are not. The other view claims that particles cannot exist, only fields. Also of interest to philosophers are the issues posed by effective field theories and renormalization theory; some philosophers reject conventional quantum field theory and argue for a new axiomatization of quantum field theory.|
|Key works||In the "fields-only" interpretation of QFT camp are Malament 1996, Fraser 2008, and Hobson 2012; Baker 2009 argues that neither the fields-only or particles-only ontologies are tenable. Wallace 2011 contains a summary and critique of the debate over whether we should adopt conventional or axiomatic quantum field theories in response to the issues posed by renormalization theory and effective field theories.|
|Introductions||The Stanford Encyclopedia article on Quantum Field Theory is an excellent introduction to the philosophical issues. Zee's Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell is a lucid introduction to the physics and mathematics of quantum field theory, and Peskin and Schroeder's Introduction to Quantum Field Theory is the canonical QFT textbook used by physicists.|
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