The physics and metaphysics of identity and individuality
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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 (QM) and quantum-field theory (QFT). The book begins with a long and dense argument for the view that elementary particles are most helpfully regarded as non-individuals, and it concludes with an earnest attempt to develop a formal apparatus for describing such non-individual entities better suited to the task than our customary set theory.
Are elementary particles individuals?
I do not know. It depends on what one means by ‘individuals’. This much is certain—elementary particles as described by QM and QFT are not individuals in the same sensein which classical mechanical systems, the molecules constituting a Boltzmann gas, or Daltonian atoms are individuals. The elementary particles of QM obey either bosonic or fermionic statistics. The molecules of a Boltzmann gas do...
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