Universality and RG Explanations

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Batterman, Robert
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I discuss the concept of universality, specifically of physical phenomena, and even more specifically of the behavior of critical phenomena. In the philosophical literature, I believe, this concept has been widely misunderstood. In particular, a number of recent attempts to formulate what counts as an explantation for the possibility of universal behavior are misguided because they fail to properly understand what the explanandum is. A proper explanation involves recognizing that universality implies a kind of stability of behavior under perturbation. Furthermore, this stability itself requires explanation. I relate the explanation of the stability characteristic of universality to the autonomy of certain models or theories at continuum scales from those and scales of the molecular or atomic.