Individuality and Non-Individuality in Quantum Mechanics

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 and Non-Individuality in Quantum Mechanics

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This chapter discusses the concepts of indistinguishability, individuality, and non-individuality in the quantum context. It is argued that the above view of particles as non-individuals is not a necessary consequence of the physics, and that quantum particles can be taken to be individuals, subject to certain constraints. However, the sense of individuality here cannot be understood in terms of the Identity of Indiscernibles, since on a standard interpretation of quantum theory, Leibniz’s Principle is violated by both fermions and bosons. Criticisms of this argument are reviewed, as is Saunders’ recent attempt to defend a Quinean form of the Principle. The consequences of regarding quantum particles as individuals are considered in detail, and Teller’s account of entanglement in terms of non-supervenient relations is developed in this context. The conclusion is reached that quantum physics supports two alternative metaphysical packages of individuality and non-individuality, yielding a stronger form of underdetermination, which can be used to support a form of structuralism.

Keywords: non-individuality; Identity of Indiscernibles; non-supervenient relations; underdetermination; structural realism; entanglement; separability; configuration space

Chapter.  26448 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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