Entities Without Intrinsic Physical Identity
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This paper critically discusses recent objections that have been raised against the contextual understanding of fundamental physical objects advocated by non-eliminative ontic structural realism. One of these recent objections claims that such a purely relational understanding of objects cannot account for there being a determinate number of them. A more general objection concerns a well-known circularity threat: relations presuppose the objects they relate and so cannot account for them. A similar circularity objection has also been raised within the framework of the weak discernibility claims made in the last few years about quantum particles. We argue that these objections rely either on mere metaphysical prejudice or on confusing the logico-mathematical formalism within which a physical theory is formulated with the physical theory itself. Furthermore, we defend the motivations for taking numerical diversity as a primitive fact in this context.
KeywordsPhysical Theory Fundamental Physical Object Ontic Structural Realism Relational Understanding Permutation Invariance
We wish to thank the audience in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Auckland, and in particular Denis Robinson, as well as the referees of this journal. We are grateful to the Swiss National Science Foundation (Ambizione grant PZ00P1_142536/1) for financial support.
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