The Journal of Philosophy:
Reduction, Emergence, and Renormalization
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In previous work, I described several examples combining reduction and emergence: where reduction is understood a la Ernest Nagel, and emergence is understood as behaviour that is novel. Here, my aim is again to reconcile reduction and emergence, for a case which is apparently more problematic than those I treated before: renormalization. My main point is that renormalizability being a generic feature at accessible energies gives us a conceptually unified family of Nagelian reductions. That is worth saying since philosophers tend to think of scientific explanation as only explaining an individual event, or perhaps a single law, or at most deducing one theory as a special case of another. Here we see a framework in which there is a space of theories endowed with enough structure that it provides a family of reductions.