Foundations of Physics

, Volume 43, Issue 8, pp 969–977 | Cite as

On Particle Phenomenology Without Particle Ontology: How Much Local Is Almost Local?

  • Aristidis Arageorgis
  • Chrysovalantis StergiouEmail author


Recently, Clifton and Halvorson have tried to salvage a particle phenomenology in the absence of particle ontology within algebraic relativistic quantum field theory. Their idea is that the detection of a particle is the measurement of a local observable which simulates the measurement of an almost local observable that annihilates the vacuum. In this note, we argue that the measurements local particle detections are supposed to simulate probe radically holistic aspects of relativistic quantum fields. We prove that in an axiomatic (Haag-Araki) quantum field theory on Minkowski spacetime, formulated in a Hilbert space \(\mathcal{H}\), there is no positive observable C, with norm less than or equal to 1, satisfying the conditions: (1) the expectation value of C in the vacuum state Ω is zero, (2) there is at least one vector state Ψ in \(\mathcal{H}\) in which the expectation value of C is different from zero, and (3) there exists at least one spacetime region \(\mathcal{O}\) such that the non-selective measurement of C leaves the expectation values of all observables in the local algebra of that region unaltered regardless of the state the system is in. The result reveals a tension between intuitions regarding localization and intuitions regarding causality: to save “particle phenomena” in the absence of particle ontology, one has to feign “particle” detectors with “good” properties as to locality but “bad” behavior as to causality.


Particle detection Locality Particle ontology Particle phenomenology Causality Localization Algebraic relativistic quantum field theory 



This research has been co-financed by the European Union (European Social Fund—ESF) and Greek national funds through the Operational Program “Education and Lifelong Learning” of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF)—Research Funding Program: THALIS-UOA-Aspects and Prospects of Realism in the Philosophy of Science and Mathematics (APRePoSMa). We wish to thank two anonymous reviewers of this Journal for valuable comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Law, School of Applied Mathematical and Physical SciencesNational Technical University of AthensAthensGreece

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