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The fundamentality of fields

Sebens, Charles T. (2022) The fundamentality of fields. Synthese, 200 (5). Art. No. 380. ISSN 1573-0964. doi:10.1007/s11229-022-03844-2.

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There is debate as to whether quantum field theory is, at bottom, a quantum theory of fields or particles. One can take a field approach to the theory, using wave functionals over field configurations, or a particle approach, using wave functions over particle configurations. This article argues for a field approach, presenting three advantages over a particle approach: (1) particle wave functions are not available for photons, (2) a classical field model of the electron gives a superior account of both spin and self-interaction as compared to a classical particle model, and (3) the space of field wave functionals appears to be larger than the space of particle wave functions. The article also describes two important tasks facing proponents of a field approach: (1) legitimize or excise the use of Grassmann numbers for fermionic field values and in wave functional amplitudes, and (2) describe how quantum fields give rise to particle-like behavior.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription ItemDiscussion Paper
Sebens, Charles T.0000-0001-7671-2141
Additional Information:Thank you to David Baker, Jacob Barandes, Jeffrey Barrett, Sean Carroll, Eddy Keming Chen, Maaneli Derakhshani, Benjamin Feintzeig, Mario Hubert, Dustin Lazarovici, Logan McCarty, Tushar Menon, David Mwakima, Ward Struyve, Roderich Tumulka, Jim Weatherall, and anonymous reviewers for helpful feedback and discussion. I have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Issue or Number:5
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220916-665813000
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:117023
Deposited By: Olivia Warschaw
Deposited On:29 Oct 2022 22:18
Last Modified:01 Nov 2022 18:16

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