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I ain’t afraid of no ghost

Dougherty, John (2021) I ain’t afraid of no ghost. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.

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Abstract

This paper criticizes the traditional philosophical account of the quantization of gauge theories and offers an alternative. On the received view, gauge theories resist quantization because they feature distinct mathematical representatives of the same physical state of affairs. This resistance is overcome by a sequence of ad hoc modifications, justified in part by reference to semiclassical electrodynamics. Among other things, these modifications introduce “ghosts”: particles with unphysical properties which do not appear in asymptotic states and which are said to be purely a notational convenience. I argue that this sequence of modifications is unjustified and inadequate, making it a poor basis for the interpretation of ghosts. I then argue that gauge theories can be quantized by the same method as any other theory. On this account, ghosts are not purely notation: they are coordinates on the classical configuration space of the theory—specifically, on its gauge structure. This interpretation does not fall prey to the standard philosophical arguments against the significance of ghosts, due to Weingard. Weingard’s argumentative strategy, properly applied, in fact tells in favor of ghosts’ physical significance.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Dougherty, Johnjohn.e.dougherty.ii@gmail.com0000-0002-4332-684X
Keywords: gauge theories; quantum field theory; quantization; Yang-Mills theory; high energy physics; standard model of particle physics
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Depositing User: John Dougherty
Date Deposited: 28 May 2021 01:44
Last Modified: 28 May 2021 01:44
Item ID: 19104
Journal or Publication Title: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2021.05.005
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Date: 25 May 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19104

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