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This year’s workshop will explore four broad philosophical issues that are specific to QFT. QFT is the theory that combines the special theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. There is consensus that the unification of these two theories necessitates the use of a mathematical framework based on fields. One issue that this raises is how to interpret this mathematical framework in terms of physical fields. The second and third issues pertain to how to connect the theory with experimental results. Renormalization techniques have been developed as a successful method for extracting predictions from the theory, but their physical basis remains unclear. The second issue concerns the development and conceptual status of renormalization group methods, which are an important species of renormalization technique. The third issue is the representation of measurement in QFT. Once again, this is an issue that has roots in non- relativistic quantum mechanics, but which raises a new set of interpretive and mathematical challenges in QFT. The fourth issue is spontaneous symmetry breaking, which is a core ingredient of the Standard Model of particle physics but is also used to model other types of physical systems. There are outstanding questions about how spontaneous symmetry breaking should be interpreted in particle physics and in other areas of physics such as condensed matter physics and early universe cosmology. All four of these issues are research topics within philosophy of physics, but they also have broader appeal within philosophy of science and philosophy of mathematics. Furthermore, all four issues are important not only for understanding QFT, but for formulating successor theories. This is one reason why these issues are of interest to physicists as well as philosophers.

The purpose of this workshop is twofold: (1) to bring together philosophers of physics who work on QFT, including emerging and established scholars, and (2) to foster interactions among philosophers and physicists. Bringing together philosophers who are working on a set of closely related issues in QFT will facilitate communication and collaboration. This workshop will be held in conjunction with an annual graduate student conference in the philosophy of Logic, Mathematics, and Physics, which every year attracts many of the brightest and most promising graduate students in philosophy of science, and will provide an opportunity for the graduate students to interact with the participants in the workshop. Bringing philosophy of physics into closer contact with physics is essential for progress and innovation in both fields. Physicists and philosophers bring different intellectual resources to bear on problems of shared interest, and their strengths often complement one another in research on foundational problems.

The workshop will be hosted alongside a graduate student-led conference, the 22nd Annual Graduate Conference on the Philosophy of Logic, Mathematics, and Physics. Participants of the workshop will be encouraged to visit Western for the entire week, to attend this conference and contribute to the discussions. This long-standing workshop is wholly run by graduate students. It provides a valuable networking opportunity for the graduate participants, and an opportunity for them to get feedback on their work from their peers and from faculty in attendance.

Emily Adlam, Western University

Alex Blum, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG)

Doreen Fraser, University of Waterloo

James Fraser, University of Wüppertal

Marian Gilton, University of Pittsburgh (TBD)

Achim Kempf, University of Waterloo and Perimeter Institute

Adam Koberinski, University of Waterloo

Eduardo Martin-Martinez, University of Waterloo

Michael Miller, University of Toronto

Kasia Rejzner, York University and Perimeter Institute (TBD)

Noel Swanson, University of Delaware

David Wallace, University of Pittsburgh

Porter Williams, University of Pittsburgh

— —

Jenann Ismael, Johns Hopkins University (to deliver keynote at LMP graduate conference)

MONDAY, May 15 – Room 1170, WIRB

09:00 – 10:15 am — Porter Williams (Pittsburgh): What is a Quantum Field?

10:15 Coffee Break

10:30 am – 11:45 pm — Noel Swanson (Delaware): Prospects for Wave-Functional Interpretations of QFT

11:45 – 1:00 pm — Lunch

1:00 – 2:15 pm — Achim Kempf (Waterloo, Perimeter): What is the fundamental difference, if any, between the degrees of freedom of spacetime and those of matter?

2:15 – 3:30 pm — Kasia Rejzner (York, Perimeter): TBD

3:30 Coffee Break

3:45 – 5:00 pm — Marian Gilton (Pittsburgh): TBD

5:00 pm — Discussion: What is the ontology of QFT?

TUESDAY, May 16 – Room 3000, WIRB

8:30 –9:00 am — Coffee & snacks

9:00 – 10:15 am — James Fraser (Wüppertal): The Many Faces of The Renormalization Group

10:15 – 10:30 am — Coffee Break

10:30 am – 11:45 pm — Alex Blum (MPIWG): Re-evaluating UV divergences in the 1950s

11:45 – 1:00 pm — Lunch

1:00 – 2:15 pm — Michael Miller (Toronto) and James Fraser (Wüppertal): Why go effective?

2:15 – 2:30 pm — Coffee Break

2:30 – 3:45 pm —  Adam Koberinski (Waterloo): It’s not 0 K: Conceptual challenges in finite-

temperature field theory

3:45-5:00 pm – David Wallace (Pittsburgh): Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking in condensed-matter and particle physics

5:00 pm — Discussion: What are the reasons for adopting an “effective field theory” point of view? What impact does this have on interpreting QFT?

WEDNESDAY, MAY 17 – Room 1170, WIRB

8:30 – 9:00 am — Coffee & snacks

9:00 – 10:15 am — Doreen Fraser (Waterloo): Philosophical implications of measurement in QFT

10:15-10:30 am – Coffee Break

10:30 – 11:45 am — Eduardo Martin-Martinez (Waterloo): Classical vs Quantum gravity: from the foundations of QFT to tabletop experiments

11:45-1:00 pm — Lunch

1:00 – 2:15 pm — Emily Adlam (Western): Do we have a viable solution to the measurement problem?

2:15 pm — Discussion: What are the distinctive challenges facing measurement theory in QFT?

For individuals traveling to London for the conference, we offer the following suggestions & general information:


Hotels close to campus include:


Our local airport code is YXU (London, Ontario, Canada). It can sometimes be less expensive to fly into either Toronto or Detroit, then take an airport shuttle van (Robert Q) or bus (Greyhound) into London.

The London Transit Commission has several bus routes (2, 6, 9C, 10, 13, 31, 32, 33 and 34) that drop off somewhere on or near the university. Buses tend to run every 15 to 30 minutes (depending on the line, and day of the week). Visit the London Transit Commission website for bus routes and estimated bus arrival times.

Conference Location & Parking

The conference will take place at Western University in the Western Interdisciplinary Research Building (WIRB), in Room 1170 and Room 3000 (check schedule for room number). The WIRB is located on Perth Drive, near the Labatt Visual Arts Building. A campus map (depicting visitor parking in blue) is available here. For those of you who will be driving to campus, the closest visitor parking spaces are the pay & display meters located between the Visual Arts Building & the North Campus Building. Information on parking rates can be found here.

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