Identity in Physics: A Historical, Philosophical, and Formal Analysis

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Overview

"Can quantum particles be regarded as individuals, just like books, tables, and people? According to the 'received' view - articulated by several physicists in the immediate aftermath of the quantum revolution - quantum physics itself tells us they cannot: quantum particles, unlike their classical counterparts, must be regarded as 'non-individuals' in some sense. However, recent work has indicated that this is not the whole story and that the theory is also consistent with the position that such particles can be taken to be individuals, albeit at a metaphysical price." "Drawing on philosophical accounts of identity and individuality, as well as the histories of both classical and quantum physics, the authors explore these two alternative metaphysical packages. In particular, they argue that if quantum particles are regarded as individuals, then Leibniz's famous Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles is in fact violated. Recent discussions of this conclusion are analysed in detail and, again, the costs involved in saving the Principle are carefully considered." Taking the alternative package, the authors deploy recent work in non-standard logic and set theory to indicate how we can make sense of the idea that objects can be non-individuals. The concluding chapter suggests how these results might then be extended to quantum field theory.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Identity in Physics is a very significant contribution to debate about, well, identity in physics, but it deserves attention from general philosophers of science and metaphysicians too." —Katherine Hawley, International Studies in the Philosophy of Science

"Steven French and Décio Krause have written what bids fair to be, for years to come, the definitive philosophical treatment of the problem of the individuality of elementary particles in quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. " —Don Howard,Metascience

"Identity in Pysics is scientifically and technically sophisticated and provides a model of how metaphysics ought to be done. It is essential reading for philosophers of physics, metaphysicians and logicians interested in identity and individuality, and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the history and philosophy of physics, or non-standard approaches to logic and set theory. French and Krause are to be congratulated on producing a rich and comprehensive book worthy of careful study."—James Ladyman, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199575633
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/30/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven French, University of Leeds

Décio Krause, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 Individuality in classical physics 22
3 Quantum statistics and non-individuality 84
4 Individuality and non-individuality in quantum mechanics 139
5 Names, nomological objects and quasets 198
6 A problem for present-day mathematics 238
7 The mathematics of non-individuality 272
8 Non-reflexive quantum logics 321
9 The logic of quanta 354
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