Infinitesimal idealization, easy road nominalism, and fractional quantum statistics
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It has been recently debated whether there exists a so-called “easy road” to nominalism. In this essay, I attempt to fill a lacuna in the debate by making a connection with the literature on infinite and infinitesimal idealization in science through an example from mathematical physics that has been largely ignored by philosophers. Specifically, by appealing to John Norton’s distinction between idealization and approximation, I argue that the phenomena of fractional quantum statistics bears negatively on Mary Leng’s proposed path to easy road nominalism, thereby partially defending Mark Colyvan’s claim that there is no easy road to nominalism.
KeywordsIdealization Approximation Easy road nominalism Mathematical explanation Indispensability argument Anyons Fractional quantum statistics
I gratefully acknowledge useful discussions with Mary Leng and Mark Colyvan. Previous versions of this paper were presented at the “Annual Meeting of the European Philosophy of Science Association” at Exeter University on 09/09/2017 and “Current Projects” at Department of Philosophy at University of Sydney on 08/03/2017. I thank the participants for helpful comments. This work was produced as part of a visiting fellowship at the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science and Ideas and the Sydney Centre for Time at University of Sydney.
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