, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 165-173

DEGREES OF FREEDOM AND THE INTERPRETATION OF QUANTUM FIELD THEORY

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Abstract

Nick Huggett and Robert Weingard (1994) have recently proposed a novel approach to interpreting field theories in physics, one which makes central use of the fact that a field generally has an infinite number of degrees of freedom in any finite region of space it occupies. Their characterization, they argue, (i) reproduces our intuitive categorizations of fields in the classical domain and thereby (ii) provides a basis for arguing that the quantum field is a field. Furthermore, (iii) it accomplishes these tasks better than does a well-known rival approach due to Paul Teller (1990, 1995). This paper contends that all three of these claims are mistaken, and suggests that Huggett and Weingard have not shown how counting degrees of freedom provides any insight into the interpretation or the formal properties of field theories in physics.