The variety of explanations in the Higgs sector
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This paper argues that there is no single universal conception of scientific explanation that is consistently employed throughout the whole domain of Higgs physics—ranging from the successful experimental search for a standard model (SM) Higgs particle and the hitherto unsuccessful searches for any particles beyond the standard model (BSM), to phenomenological model builders in the Higgs sector and theoretical physicists interested in how the core principles of quantum field theory apply to spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Higgs mechanism. Yet the coexistence of deductive-statistical, unificationist, model-based, and statistical-relevance explanations does not amount to a fragmentation of the discipline, but allows elementary particle physicists to simultaneously pursue a plurality of research strategies and keep the field together by joint convictions about the SM and shared explanatory ideals. These convictions include that the SM both represents a successful explanation of the available particle data and contains aspects in need of further explanation. Especially in the domain of BSM physics, explanatory ideals typically appear as stories (in Hartmann’s sense) motivating the different models and linking them to the whole of the discipline.
KeywordsExplanation Models Elementary particle physics Higgs particle Higgs mechanism
This paper has emerged from the research group “Epistemology of the LHC” funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG). I am grateful to all members of this group for a large number of informative and critical discussions. An early version has been presented at a workshop at the University of South Carolina in April 2014 that was organized by Richard Dawid and myself and supported by a USC Provost Grant, the USC Nanocenter, and the Department of Philosophy. Later versions were delivered while I was a visiting scholar at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP) and as a colloquium talk at the Bielefeld Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Science (I2SOS). I am grateful for all the manifold feedback that I have received on those occasions. I am also indebted to the anonymous referees for their comments and helpful suggestions.
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