Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Why isn't there only physics?
Author: Franklin, Alexander Richard
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 285X
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
In this thesis, I discuss the relations between descriptions of the world at different levels: through the examination of case studies from condensed matter physics and quantum field theory, I argue that we may effect reductions and that such reductions provide bottom-up explanations of the autonomy and novelty - the emergence - of higher-level descriptions. Philosophically, I make three principal contributions. First, I propose an approach to reduction which has not been considered in the existing literature - that of justifying the laws which connect descriptions of phenomena at different levels; this involves focus on the underlying features which allow us to discard a tremendous amount of detail when we move from lower-level to higher-level descriptions. Second, I defend and develop an account of emergence which better captures the term's use by scientists but which does not place it in opposition to reduction - this corresponds to the availability of novel explanatory strategies at higher levels that build on abstractions from lower-level descriptions; this also allows for a precise characterisation of the level structure itself. Third, I distinguish different types of autonomy, which correspond to invariance under different types of perturbations - this informs discussion of multiple realisability and underwrites my explanation of what makes Effective (Quantum) Field Theories (EFTs) such useful theories. Each philosophical contribution is supported by examples from physics: I consider first order phase transitions, phonons in crystal lattices, the universality of critical phenomena, and EFTs. By analysing these case studies, I contribute to conceptual and foundational debates about the theories discussed. In addition, in the latter two cases I clarify the explanatory function of the renormalisation group. In all cases, I identify the lower-level mechanisms and processes which allow for the discarding of detail when constructing higher-level descriptions. Overall, I argue that the level structure of reality and the emergence of higher-level stability may be explained by identifying the physical structures which allow for abstraction from irrelevant detail.
Supervisor: Knox, Eleanor ; Papineau, David Calder Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available