Whence the Effectiveness of Effective Field Theories?

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The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

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Franklin, Alexander
Oxford University Press
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Effective Quantum Field Theories (EFTs) are effective insofar as they apply within a prescribed range of length-scales, but within that range they predict and describe with extremely high accuracy and precision. The effectiveness of EFTs is explained by identifying the features – the scaling behaviour of the parameters – which lead to effectiveness. The explanation relies on distinguishing autonomy with respect to changes in microstates, from autonomy with respect to changes in microlaws, and relating these, respectively, to renormalisability and naturalness. It is claimed that the effectiveness of EFTs is a consequence of each theory’s microstate-autonomy rather than its microlaw-autonomy.