Ontic structural realism and quantum field theory: Are there intrinsic properties at the most fundamental level of reality?

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 62:176-188 (2018)
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Ontic structural realism refers to the novel, exciting, and widely discussed basic idea that the structure of physical reality is genuinely relational. In its radical form, the doctrine claims that there are, in fact, no objects but only structure, i.e., relations. More moderate approaches state that objects have only relational but no intrinsic properties. In its most moderate and most tenable form, ontic structural realism assumes that at the most fundamental level of physical reality there are only relational properties. This means that the most fundamental objects only possess relational but no non-reducible intrinsic properties. The present paper will argue that our currently best physics refutes even this most moderate form of ontic structural realism. More precisely, I will claim that 1) according to quantum field theory, the most fundamental objects of matter are quantum fields and not particles, and show that 2) according to the Standard Model, quantum fields have intrinsic non-relational properties.



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Philipp Berghofer
University of Graz

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