, Volume 84, Issue 3, pp 585–615 | Cite as

Philosophical Issues Concerning Phase Transitions and Anyons: Emergence, Reduction, and Explanatory Fictions

  • Elay ShechEmail author


Various claims regarding intertheoretic reduction, weak and strong notions of emergence, and explanatory fictions have been made in the context of first-order thermodynamic phase transitions. By appealing to John Norton’s recent distinction between approximation and idealization, I argue that the case study of anyons and fractional statistics, which has received little attention in the philosophy of science literature, is more hospitable to such claims. In doing so, I also identify three novel roles that explanatory fictions fulfill in science. Furthermore, I scrutinize the claim that anyons, as they are ostensibly manifested in the fractional quantum Hall effect, are emergent entities and urge caution. Consequently, it is suggested that a particular notion of strong emergence signals the need for the development of novel physical–mathematical research programs.



I gratefully acknowledge useful discussion with Jonathan Bain, Tom Lancaster, Robin Hendry, and Olivier Sartenear. Previous versions of this paper were presented at the “Emergence and the Limit: A Workshop in Philosophy of Physics” at London School of Economics on 11/25/2016, “Workshop on Symmetry and Symmetry Breaking in Fundamental Physics” at Paris Centre for Quantum Computing on 12/02/2016, and “Scale and the Sciences: A One-day Workshop” at The Institute for advanced Study at Durham University on 12/07/2016 7. I thank the participants for helpful comments. Thanks also to Narin Shech and Isabel Ranner for assistance with figures and editing. This work was produced as part of a Senior Research Fellowship at Durham University generously funded by the Institute for Advanced Study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Auburn UniversityAuburnUSA

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