The facets of relativistic quantum field theory
Institut für Theoretische Physik der Universität, Philosophenweg 16, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
2 Fachbereich Physik der Technischen Universität, Postfach 3049, 67653 Kaiserslautern, Germany
Received: 18 August 2010
Received in final form: 19 January 2011
Published online: 25 March 2011
Relativistic quantum field theory is generally recognized to form the adequate theoretical frame for subatomic physics, with the Standard Model of Particle Physics as a major achievement. We point out that quantum field theory in its present form is not a monolithic theory, but rather consists of distinct facets, which aim at a common ideal goal. We give a short overview of the strengths and limitations of these facets. We emphasize the theory-dependent relation between the quantum fields, and the basic objects in the empirical domain, the particles. Given the marked conceptual differences between the facets, we argue to view these, and therefore also the Standard Model, as symbolic constructions. We finally note that this view of physical theories originated in the 19th century and is related to the emergence of the classical field as an autonomous concept.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag 2011