The physics and metaphysics of identity and individuality
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Steven French and Décio Krause have written what bids fair to be, for years to come, the definitive philosophical treatment of the problem of the individuality of elementary particles in quantum mechanics (QM) and quantum-field theory (QFT). The book begins with a long and dense argument for the view that elementary particles are most helpfully regarded as non-individuals, and it concludes with an earnest attempt to develop a formal apparatus for describing such non-individual entities better suited to the task than our customary set theory.
Are elementary particles individuals?
I do not know. It depends on what one means by ‘individuals’. This much is certain—elementary particles as described by QM and QFT are not individuals in the same sense in which classical mechanical systems, the molecules constituting a Boltzmann gas, or Daltonian atoms are individuals. The elementary particles of QM obey either bosonic or fermionic statistics. The molecules of a Boltzmann gas do not. A
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- The physics and metaphysics of identity and individuality
Volume 20, Issue 2 , pp 225-251
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- Author Affiliations
- 1. Department of Philosophy and Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556, USA
- 2. Philosophy Department, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA, 94132, USA
- 3. Department of Philosophy, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, 33124, USA
- 4. Department of Philosophy, University of Florence, Via Bolognese 52, 50139, Florence, Italy
- 5. Department of Pure Mathematics, School of Mathematics, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
- 6. Department of Philosophy, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
- 7. Department of Philosophy, Federal University of Santa Catarina, 88040-900 Campus Trindade, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil