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Points, particles, and structural realism

Pooley, Oliver (2005) Points, particles, and structural realism. [Preprint]


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In his paper ``What is Structural Realism?'' James Ladyman drew a distinction between epistemological structural realism and metaphysical (or ontic) structural realism. He also drew a suggestive analogy between the perennial debate between substantivalist and relationalist interpretations of spacetime on the one hand, and the debate about whether quantum mechanics treats identical particles as individuals or as `non-individuals' on the other. In both cases, Ladyman's suggestion is that an ontic structural realist interpretation of the physics might be just what is needed to overcome the stalemate. The main thesis of this paper is that, whatever the interpretative difficulties of generally covariant spacetime physics are, they do not support or suggest structural realism. In particular, I hope to show that there is in fact no analogy that supports a similar interpretation of the metaphysics of spacetime points and of quantum particles.

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Item Type: Preprint
Pooley, Oliver
Additional Information: A version of this paper will appear in Rickles, French and Saatsi (eds), The Structural Foundations of Quantum Gravity, Oxford University Press. Please quote from and cite the published version.
Keywords: General convariance, permutation invariance, identical particles, individuality, substantivalism, relationalism, structural realism
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
Depositing User: Oliver Pooley
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2006
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:14
Item ID: 2939

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