Schwinger and the ontology of quantum field theory

Foundations of Science 12 (4):295-323 (2007)
An epistemological interpretation of quantum mechanics hinges on the claim that the distinctive features of quantum mechanics can be derived from some distinctive features of an observational basis. Old and new variations of this theme are listed. The program has a limited success in non-relativistic quantum mechanics. The crucial issue is how far it can be extended to quantum field theory without introducing significant ontological postulates. A C*-formulation covers algebraic quantum field theory, but not the standard model. Julian Schwinger’s anabatic methodology extended a strict measurement-based formulation of quantum mechanics through field theory. His extension also excluded the quark hypothesis and the standard model. Quarks and local gauge invariance are postulates that go beyond the limits of an epistemological interpretation of quantum mechanics. The ontological significance ascribed to these advances depends on the role accorded ontology.
Keywords Quantum field  Quantum mechanics  Ontology  Epistemology  Schwinger  Particle
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DOI 10.1007/s10699-007-9109-4
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