Although atoms had been discussed since antiquity as a theory of matter it was only at the beginning of the 20th century that convincing evidence was found, through brownian motion - in fact this was the same 'evidence' alluded to by Lucretious in his poem de Rerum Natura, as well the theory of elements in chemistry.
Although atoms were too small to see by even the most powerful microscope it was natural t think that they had the same kind of reality as a rock, as one could just simply imagine shrinking a rock to the dimensions of an atom.
It was then quickly discovered that atoms had been misnamed - they weren't the smallest particles of matter - these were elctrons, protons & neutrons. Of course, after the advent of QM and in particular QFT the picture changed. Instead of a particle we had a particle field. In the physical theory this is defined at every point of spacetime.
Doubt was thrown on the naive realism for the ontology of atoms had before.
An instrumentalist/operational ontology seems unsatisfying to me - as this doesn't seem like a proper ontology - is it natural to assume that the electron field is physically real. This subsumes the operational perspective, since then a measurement just measures an interaction with the field - so measurements are real.
I mean by the physical reality of the field that they have the same kind of reality as a rock. What are the problems or criticisms can be made for this view?
It appears strange for example, we can say that a field is physically real and so is a rock but their physical reality differs.
By this I'm not claiming physicalism, that everything in the world is physical. Or that only physical laws are real.
Is a fair criticism is that we have no right to expect that physicists won't decide a better model of an electron is not a field but (for want of a better word) a forest - a new mathematical gadget. Are we then committed to the reality of a forest, and no longer to the field?