, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 133–143 | Cite as

Contemporary Quantum Physics Metaphysical Challenge: Looking for a Relational Metaphysics

  • João L. Cordovil
Original Paper


Traditionally, Physics has been dominated by the image of objects, that is, by the atomistic metaphysics of absolutely intrinsic (monadic) properties of qualitatively unchangeable individual entities. The first major challenge to this metaphysics inside physics comes with quantum mechanics, specifically with the well-known phenomenon known as ‘quantum entanglement’. From quantum entanglement it seems that we can conclude that: (1) quantum objects are not independent entities; (2) wholes (systems) have an ontological priority over their parts (subsystems). However, it is arguable that is too risky to infer such conclusions directly from quantum mechanics. If epistemological consequences of quantum mechanics are inescapable, is seems unwise to take any direct ontological consequences from it. After all, quantum mechanics does not refer to the states of physical entities before measurements, but it is just a theory that allows us to calculate the possible outcomes from any given measurement. Still, this does not mean that, indirectly, quantum mechanics does not give some account of quantum reality that deeply challenges traditional objects metaphysics, namely, (1) through the simple existence of the measurement problem; and (2) through the experimental violations of Bell inequality. Even challenged, the object picture in physics can thus prevail. But we must also not forget that on the last decades, Quantum Physics has being evolved beyond the direct scope of quantum mechanics. I will try to argue that in at least some contemporary approaches in Quantum Physics we can see that there is a movement pointing towards a relational ontological view, according to which the ontological primacy is not to be given to individual entities, as self-sufficient elements with their own intrinsic and immutable identities—as in traditional object’s metaphysics—but to some sort of relational structures. I argue that although this relational metaphysics is still to be developed, it will have to be able to account for both the relational and object natures of quantum entities.


Contemporary quantum physics Entanglement Metaphysics of physics Ontology Relational metaphysics 



This work has been done with the support of FCT Fellowship Grant: SFRH/BPD/92254/2013.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Philosophy of SciencesUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal

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