Particles, fields, and the ontology of the standard model

Synthese 201 (1):1-26 (2023)
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Abstract

In this work we discuss issues of ontological commitment towards one of the most important examples of contemporary fundamental science: the standard model of particle physics. We present a new form of selective structural realism, which uses as its basis the distinction between what have been called framework and interaction theories. This allows us to advance the ongoing debate about the ontological status of (quasi-)particles and quantum fields, by emphasising the distinction between quantum field theory serving as a framework, and the standard model itself, which we argue is an interaction theory embedded within this framework. Following a discussion of what ontological commitments corresponds to each of these two classes, we argue that some of the previous proposals in the literature might have been misguided by the blending of quantum field theory and the standard model into an undifferentiated unity, and defend a moderate form of object realism with respect to particle-like entities.

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Federico Benitez
University of Lausanne

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