Decoupling emergence and reduction in physics
- 172 Downloads
An effective theory in physics is one that is supposed to apply only at a given length (or energy) scale; the framework of effective field theory (EFT) describes a ‘tower’ of theories each applying at different length scales, where each ‘level’ up is a shorter-scale theory. Owing to subtlety regarding the use and necessity of EFTs, a conception of emergence defined in terms of reduction is irrelevant. I present a case for decoupling emergence and reduction in the philosophy of physics. This paper develops a positive conception of emergence, based on the novelty and autonomy of the ‘levels’, by considering physical examples, involving critical phenomena, the renormalisation group, and symmetry breaking. This positive conception of emergence is related to underdetermination and universality, but, I argue, is preferable to other accounts of emergence in physics that rely on universality.
KeywordsEmergence Effective field theory Renormalization group RG Critical phenomena Universality Novelty Autonomy Symmetry breaking Quantum field theory
Thank you to Robert Batterman and Ian McKay for their comments on a previous draft of this paper. I am appreciative, also, for the suggestions made by the anonymous reviewers.
- Bain, J. (2013a). Effective field theories. In Batterman, R. (Ed.) The Oxford handbook of philosophy of physics (pp. 224–254). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Batterman, R.W. (2011). Emergence, singularities, and symmetry breaking. Foundations of Physics, 41, 1031–1050.Google Scholar
- Bazavov, A., Bernard, C., DeTar, C., Gottlieb, S., Heller, U.M., Hetrick, J.M., Laiho, J., Levkova, M., Mackenzie, P.B., Oktay, M.B., Sugar, R., Toussaint, D., & Van de Water, R.M. (2010). Nonperturbative QCD simulations with 2+1 flavors of improved staggered quarks. Reviews of Modern Physics, 82, 1349–1417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Bedau, M.A. (1997) In Tomberlin, J.E. (Ed.), Weak emergence (Vol. 11, pp. 375–399). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
- Bickle, J. (2008). Multiple realizability. The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/multiple-realizability/ Accessed 23 February 2013.
- Burgess, C.P. (2004). Quantum gravity in everyday life: General relativity as an effective field theory. Living Reviews in Relativity. www.livingreviews.org/lrr-2004-5/, Accessed 23 February 2013.
- Butterfield, J., & Bouatta, N. (2012). Emergence and reduction combined in phase transitions. Proceedings of Frontiers of Fundamental Physics, 11(1446), 383–403.Google Scholar
- Butterfield, J., & Isham, C. (1999) In Butterfield, J. (Ed.), On the emergence of time in quantum gravity, (pp. 116–168). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Callender, C. (2013). Turn and face the strange... ch-ch-changes: philosophical questions raised by phase transitions. In Batterman, R. (Ed.) The Oxford handbook of philosophy of physics (pp. 189–223). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Fodor, J. (1997). Special sciences: Still autonomous after all these years. Tomberlin, 149–164.Google Scholar
- Kadanoff, L. (1966). Scaling laws for Ising models near T c. Physics, 2, 263–272.Google Scholar
- Lepage, P. (1989). What is renormalization? In Toussaint, T., & DeGrand, D. (Eds.) From actions to answers, proceedings of the 1989 theoretical study institute in elementary particle physics (pp. 483–509). Singapore: World Scientific.Google Scholar
- McLaughlin, B., & Bennett, K. (2011). Supervenience. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2011/entries/supervenience/ Accessed 20 February 2013.
- Pfeuty, P., & Toulouse, G. (1977). Introduction to the renormalization group and to critical phenomena. London: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Pich, A. (1998). Effective field theory. arXiv:hep-ph/9806303v1/ Accessed 17 February 2011.
- Polchinski, J. (1993). Effective field theory and the Fermi surface. In Harvey, J., & Polchinski, J. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 1992 Theoretical Advanced Studies Institute in Elementary Particle Physics. Singapore: World Scientific.Google Scholar
- Putnam, H. (1967). Psychological predicates. In Capitan, W.H., & Merrill, D.D. (Eds.) Art, mind, and religion (pp. 37–48). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
- Putnam, H. (1988). Representation and reality. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Robinson, D. (1992). Renormalization and the effective field theory programme. PSA: Proceedings of the biennial meeting of the philosophy of science association, 1992, 393–403.Google Scholar
- Zee, A. (2010). Quantum field theory in a nutshell, Second edn. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Zhang, S. (2004). To see a world in a grain of sand. In Barrow, J.D., Davies, P.C.W., & Harper, C.L. (Eds.) Science and ultimate reality: quantum theory, cosmology, and complexity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar