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Porter Williams
University of Southern California
  1. Scientific Realism Made Effective.Porter Williams - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (1):209-237.
    I argue that a common philosophical approach to the interpretation of physical theories—particularly quantum field theories—has led philosophers astray. It has driven many to declare the quantum field theories employed by practicing physicists, so-called ‘effective field theories’, to be unfit for philosophical interpretation. In particular, such theories have been deemed unable to support a realist interpretation. I argue that these claims are mistaken: attending to the manner in which these theories are employed in physical practice, I show that interpreting effective (...)
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  2. Naturalness, the Autonomy of Scales, and the 125GeV Higgs.Porter Williams - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 51:82-96.
    The recent discovery of the Higgs at 125 GeV by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the LHC has put significant pressure on a principle which has guided much theorizing in high energy physics over the last 40 years, the principle of naturalness. In this paper, I provide an explication of the conceptual foundations and physical significance of the naturalness principle. I argue that the naturalness principle is well-grounded both empirically and in the theoretical structure of effective field theories, and (...)
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    Two Notions of Naturalness.Porter Williams - 2019 - Foundations of Physics 49 (9):1022-1050.
    My aim in this paper is twofold: to distinguish two notions of naturalness employed in beyond the standard model physics and to argue that recognizing this distinction has methodological consequences. One notion of naturalness is an “autonomy of scales” requirement: it prohibits sensitive dependence of an effective field theory’s low-energy observables on precise specification of the theory’s description of cutoff-scale physics. I will argue that considerations from the general structure of effective field theory provide justification for the role this notion (...)
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    Renormalization Group Methods.Porter Williams - 2021 - In Eleanor Knox & Alistair Wilson (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Physics. Routledge.
    This is an introduction to renormalization group methods in quantum field theory aimed at philosophers of science. review path integral methods, the relationship between early renormalization theory and renormalization group methods, and conceptual shifts in thinking about quantum field theory spurred by the development of renormalization group methods.
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    Realism Without Rigidity?Porter Williams - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (2):473-480.
    Contribution to a PPR book symposium on Mark Wilson's Physics Avoidance.
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    The Fate of Causal Structure Under Time Reversal.Porter Williams - 2022 - Theoria. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science 37 (1).
    What happens to the causal structure of a world when time is reversed? At first glance it seems there are two possible answers: the causal relations are reversed, or they are not. I argue that neither of these answers is correct: we should either deny that time-reversed worlds have causal relations at all, or deny that causal concepts developed in the actual world are reliable guides to the causal structure of time-reversed worlds. The first option is motivated by the instability (...)
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  7. Entanglement, Complexity, and Causal Asymmetry in Quantum Theories.Porter Williams - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (2):1-38.
    It is often claimed that one cannot locate a notion of causation in fundamental physical theories. The reason most commonly given is that the dynamics of those theories do not support any distinction between the past and the future, and this vitiates any attempt to locate a notion of causal asymmetry—and thus of causation—in fundamental physical theories. I argue that this is incorrect: the ubiquitous generation of entanglement between quantum systems grounds a relevant asymmetry in the dynamical evolution of quantum (...)
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