Journal of Statistical Physics

, Volume 167, Issue 3–4, pp 559–574 | Cite as

Philosophical Implications of Kadanoff’s Work on the Renormalization Group

  • Robert W. Batterman


This paper investigates the consequences for our understanding of physical theories as a result of the development of the renormalization group. Kadanoff’s assessment of these consequences is discussed. What he called the “extended singularity theorem” (that phase transitons only can occur in infinite systems) poses serious difficulties for philosophical interpretation of theories. Several responses are discussed. The resolution demands a philosophical rethinking of the role of mathematics in physical theorizing.


Kadanoff Renormalization group Block transformations Ising model Minimal models Universality Explanation 



Thanks to Michael Miller for helpful comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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