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Effective and Selective Realisms

Dougherty, John (2023) Effective and Selective Realisms. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Scientific realists argue that empirically successful theories latch on to unobservable features of reality. But it is often thought that conventional theories of particle physics do not deserve realist commitment, despite their outstanding empirical success. Recently, a number of “effective” realisms have argued that we should distinguish between the low- and high-energy claims of particle theory and that we can and should be realist about the former but not the latter. I present a reductio ad absurdum against the most naive extension of this proposal to the most empirically successful theories of particle physics, such as quantum electrodynamics. By considering two replies to this argument, I distinguish two forms of effective realism. A conservative form hews closely to traditional forms of realism, and the resources of this tradition allow conservative effective realism to avoid the reductio; however, this form of effective realism is left without a positive account of quantum electrodynamics. A more radical form of effective realism can account for quantum electrodynamics, but it requires substantial development, along with a revision of the terms of the realist debate.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Dougherty, Johnjohn.e.dougherty.ii@gmail.com0000-0002-4332-684X
Keywords: effective realism, scientific realism, quantum field theory, gauge theories
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Depositing User: John Dougherty
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2023 12:21
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2023 12:21
Item ID: 21830
Official URL: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/7249...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1086/724978
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Date: 2023
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/21830

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