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On the Renormalisation Group Explanation of Universality

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-248
Number of pages23
JournalPHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Volume85
Issue number2
DOIs
Accepted/In press22 May 2017
Published10 Apr 2018

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Abstract

It is commonly claimed, both by physicists and philosophers that the universality of critical phenomena is explained through particular applications of the renormalisation group. This paper has three aims: (i) to clarify the structure of the explanation of universality; (ii) to discuss the physics of such renormalisation
group explanations; (iii) to examine the extent to which universality is thus explained.

The derivation of critical exponents proceeds via a real-space or a field-theoretic approach to the renormalisation group. This paper builds on Mainwood (2006) in arguing that these approaches ought to be distinguished: while the real-space approach fails adequately to explain universality, the field-theoretic approach succeeds in the satisfaction of this goal.

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