, Volume 190, Issue 16, pp 3475–3494 | Cite as

Wither away individuals



In this paper we deal with the problem of identity and individuality in quantum mechanics. We analyze three definitions of the concept of an individual and propose to check their merits in relation to the theory. In order to achieve our goals our approach also ties those definitions of individuality to two distinct kinds of naturalism in ontology: a strong version, according to which quantum mechanics must somehow authorize in a positive fashion the ontological concepts being dealt with, and a weak naturalism, according to which quantum mechanics must be only compatible with those ontological concepts. We conclude that strong naturalism is incompatible with the three concepts of individuality in quantum mechanics, and we argue that weak naturalism is not completely motivated, so that the best position to be assumed, in the end, is that the entities are simply not individuals. That is, in its craving to be compatible with strong naturalism, individuality ends up evaporating and we are left with non-individuals.


Ontological naturalism Individuality Identity Quantum mechanics Non-individuals 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Cao T. Y. (2003) Can we dissolve physical entities into mathematical structures?. Synthese 136: 57–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chalmers, D., Manley, D., Wasserman, R. (Eds.) (2009) Metametaphysics: New essays on the foundations of ontology. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Domenech G., Holik F., Krause D. (2008) Quasi-spaces and the foundations of quantum mechanics. Foundations of Physics 38: 969–994CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dorato, M., & Morganti, M. (2012) Grades of individuality, a pluralistic view of identity in quantum mechanics and in the sciences. Forthcoming in Philosophical Studies.Google Scholar
  5. Fine K. (2001) The question of realism. Philosopher’s Imprint 1(1): 1–30Google Scholar
  6. French S. (1989) Identity and individuality in classical and quantum physics. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 67(4): 433–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. French S., Krause D. (2006) Identity in physics A historical, philosophical and formal analysis. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. French S., Ladyman J. (2003) Remodelling structural realism: Quantum physics and the metaphysics of structure. Synthese 136: 31–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. French S., Readhead M. (1988) Quantum physics and the identity of indiscernibles. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 39: 233–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hawley K. (2009) Identity and Indiscernibility. Mind 118: 101–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hofweber T. (2009) Ambitious yet modest, metaphysics. In: Chalmers D., Manley D., Wasserman R. (Eds.) Metametaphysics: New essays on the foundations of ontology. Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp 260–289Google Scholar
  12. Huggett N. (1997) Identity, quantum mechanics and common sense. The Monist 80(1): 118–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Krause D. (2010) Logical aspects of quantum (non-)individuality. Foundations of Science 15(1): 79–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ladyman J., Bigaj T. (2010) The principle of the identity of indiscernibles and quantum mechanics. Philosophy of Science 77: 117–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Moreland J. P. (1998) Theories of individuation: A reconsideration of bare particulars. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79: 51–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Muller F. A. (2011) Withering away, weakly. Synthese 180: 223–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Muller F. A., Saunders S. (2008) Discerning fermions. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 59: 499–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Muller F. A., Seevinck M. P. (2009) Discerning elementary particles. Philosophy of Science 76(2): 179–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Rodriguez-Pereyra G. (2004) The bundle theory is compatible with distinct but indiscernible particulars. Analysis 64(1): 72–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Saunders S. (2003) Physics and Leibniz’s principles. In: Brading K., Castellani E. (Eds.) Symmetries in physics: Philosophical reflections. Cambridge Un. Press, Cambridge, pp 289–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Saunders S. (2006) Are quantum particles objects?. Analysis 66: 52–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Schaffer J. (2009) On what grounds what. In: Chalmers D., Manley D., Wasserman R. (Eds.) Metametaphysics: New essays on the foundations of ontology. Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp 347–383Google Scholar
  23. Schrödinger E. (1952) Science and humanism. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyFronteira Sul Federal UniversityChapecóBrazil

Personalised recommendations