Rob Clifton, Hans Halvorson
August 05, 2000
Philosophical reflection on quantum field theory has tended to focus on how it revises our conception of what a particle is. However, there has been relatively little discussion of the threat to the "reality" of particles posed by the possibility of inequivalent quantizations of a classical field theory, i.e., inequivalent representations of the algebra of observables of the field in terms of operators on a Hilbert space. The threat is that each representation embodies its own distinctive conception of what a particle is, and how a "particle" will respond to a suitably operated detector. Our main goal is to clarify the subtle relationship between inequivalent representations of a field theory and their associated particle concepts. We also have a particular interest in the Minkowski versus Rindler quantizations of a free Boson field, because they respectively entail two radically different descriptions of the particle content of the field in the very same region of spacetime. We shall defend the idea that these representations provide complementary descriptions of the same state of the field against the claim that they embody completely incommensurable theories of the field.