Universality caused: the case of renormalization group explanation

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Recently, many have argued that there are certain kinds of abstract mathematical explanations that are noncausal. In particular, the irrelevancy approach suggests that abstracting away irrelevant causal details can leave us with a noncausal explanation. In this paper, I argue that the common example of Renormalization Group (RG) explanations of universality used to motivate the irrelevancy approach deserves more critical attention. I argue that the reasons given by those who hold up RG as noncausal do not stand up to critical scrutiny. As a result, the irrelevancy approach and the line between casual and noncausal explanation deserves more scrutiny.
Original languageEnglish
Article number36
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Abstraction
  • Causal explanation
  • Critical phenomena
  • Non-causal explanation
  • Renormalization group
  • Universality


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