Philosophical perspectives on ad hoc hypotheses and the Higgs mechanism
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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