Journal Article

Exclusion Principle and the Identity of Indiscernibles: a Response to Margenau's Argument

Michela Massimi

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 52, issue 2, pages 303-330
Published in print June 2001 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 2001 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Exclusion Principle and the Identity of Indiscernibles: a Response to Margenau's Argument

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Philosophy of Science
  • Science and Mathematics


Show Summary Details


This paper concerns the question of whether Pauli's Exclusion Principle (EP) vindicates the contingent truth of Leibniz's Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles (PII) for fermions as H. Weyl first suggested with the nomenclature ‘Pauli–Leibniz principle’. This claim has been challenged by a time‐honoured argument, originally due to H. Margenau and further articulated and champione by other authors. According to this argument, the Exclusion Principle—far from vindicating Leibniz's principle—would refute it, since the same reduced state, viz. an improper mixture, can be assigned as a separate state to each fermion of a composite system in antisymmetric state. As a result, the two fermions do have the same monadic state‐dependent properties and hence are indiscernibles. PII would then be refuted in its strong version (viz. for monadic properties).

I shall argue that a misleading assumption underlies Margenau's argument: in the case of two fermions in antisymmetric state, no separate states should be invoked since the states of the two particles are entangled and the improper mixture—assigned to each fermion by reduction—cannot be taken as an ontologically separate state nor consequently as encoding monadic properties. I shall then conclude that the notion of monadic properties together with the strong version of PII are inapplicable to fermions in antisymmetric state and this undercuts Margenau's argument.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.