Individuality in Classical Physics

Steven French and Décio Krause

in Identity in Physics

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780199278244
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603952 | DOI:
 Individuality in Classical Physics

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This chapter presents a summary of the history of classical statistical mechanics, emphasizing the underlying assumptions regarding particle individuality. It is argued that the relevant sense of individuality is articulated within the theory in two different forms: transcendental individuality and space-time individuality. Huggett’s claim that classical statistics is metaphysically neutral is analyzed with regard to individuality, and it is shown that a form of space-time individuality is presupposed. This is articulated in the context of a ‘field theoretic’ re-writing of the theory free of any underlying presupposition of ‘transcendental individuality’. Hence, classical statistical mechanics supports (at least) two different accounts of particle individuality, and hence we have a weak form of underdetermination of the relevant metaphysics by the physics. Talk of ‘space-time’ individuality leads into a discussion of the individuality and identity of the space-time points themselves, covering the debate between Grünbaum and Stein, and the recent work of Hoefer and others.

Keywords: Maxwell-Boltzmann statistics; field theory; space-time; hole argument; Gibbs paradox; structuralism; haecceity; transcendental individuality; space-time individuality

Chapter.  26581 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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