Philosophical perspectives on ad hoc hypotheses and the Higgs mechanism
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We examine physicists’ charge of ad hocness against the Higgs mechanism in the standard model of elementary particle physics. We argue that even though this charge never rested on a clear-cut and well-entrenched definition of “ad hoc”, it is based on conceptual and methodological assumptions and principles that are well-founded elements of the scientific practice of high-energy particle physics. We further evaluate the implications of the recent discovery of a Higgs-like particle at the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider for the charge of ad hocness against the Higgs mechanism.
KeywordsAd hoc hypothesis Higgs mechanism Particle physics Spontaneous symmetry braking Fine-tuning Naturalness
This research is part of the project “An Ontological and Epistemological Analysis of the Higgs-mechanism,” funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, contract HA 2990/4-1), within the research collaboration “The Epistemology of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)” at the University of Wuppertal: http://www.lhc-epistemologie.uni-wuppertal.de. The authors would like to thank two anonymous referees, as well as audiences at conferences and seminars in Ankara, Dresden, Tel Aviv and Wuppertal, for thoughtful comments and suggestions.
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