We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

The real problem with perturbative quantum field theory.

Fraser, James D. (2020) 'The real problem with perturbative quantum field theory.', British journal for the philosophy of science., 71 (2). pp. 391-413.


The perturbative approach to quantum field theory (QFT) has long been viewed with suspicion by philosophers of science. This article offers a diagnosis of its conceptual problems. Drawing on Norton’s ([2012]) discussion of the notion of approximation I argue that perturbativeQFTought to be understood as producing approximations without specifying an underlying QFT model. This analysis leads to a reassessment of common worries about perturbative QFT. What ends up being the key issue with the approach on this picture is not mathematical rigour, or the threat of inconsistency, but the need for a physical explanation of its empirical success.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science following peer review. The version of record Fraser, James D. (2020). The Real Problem with Perturbative Quantum Field Theory. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71(2): 391-413 is available online at:
Date accepted:17 March 2017
Date deposited:24 April 2019
Date of first online publication:28 June 2018
Date first made open access:28 June 2020

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar