Critical Notice: "The Conceptual Development of 20th Century Field Theories", by Tian Yu Cao

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Saunders, Simon
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Cao makes two claims of particular philosophical interest, in his book "The Conceptual Development of 20th Century Field Theories". (i) The history of these developments refutes Kuhn's relativistic epistemology, and (tacitly) (2) the question of realism in quantum field theory can be addressed independent of one's views on the probem of measurement. I argue that Cao is right on the first score, although for reasons different from the ones he cites, but wrong on the second. In support of the first of these claims, I review in detail the correspondence between the treatment of critical phenomena in condensed matter physics, and of scaling in the renormalization group of RQFT.