, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 225–251 | Cite as

The physics and metaphysics of identity and individuality

Steven French and Décio Krause: Identity in physics: A historical, philosophical, and formal analysis. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006, 440 pp, £68.00 HB
  • Don Howard
  • Bas C. van Fraassen
  • Otávio Bueno
  • Elena Castellani
  • Laura Crosilla
  • Steven French
  • Décio Krause
Book Symposium

Don Howard

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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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Don Howard
    • 1
  • Bas C. van Fraassen
    • 2
  • Otávio Bueno
    • 3
  • Elena Castellani
    • 4
  • Laura Crosilla
    • 5
  • Steven French
    • 6
  • Décio Krause
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Philosophy DepartmentSan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  4. 4.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  5. 5.Department of Pure Mathematics, School of MathematicsUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  6. 6.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK
  7. 7.Department of PhilosophyFederal University of Santa CatarinaFlorianópolisBrazil

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