An Awkward Symmetry: The Tension between Particle Ontologies and Permutation Invariance

Philosophy of Science 78 (1):39-59 (2011)
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Abstract

Physical theories continue to be interpreted in terms of particles. The idea of a particle required modification with the advent of quantum theory, but remains central to scientific explanation. Particle ontologies also have the virtue of explaining basic epistemic features of the world, and so remain appealing for the scientific realist. However, particle ontologies are untenable when coupled with the empirically necessary postulate of permutation invariance—the claim that permuting the roles of particles in a representation of a physical state results in a representation of the same physical state. I demonstrate that any theory which is permutation invariant in this sense is incompatible with a particle ontology.

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Benjamin Jantzen
Virginia Tech

Citations of this work

Identity and Individuality in Quantum Theory.Steven French - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
On the Possibility of Feminist Philosophy of Physics.Maralee Harrell - 2016 - In Meta-Philosophical Reflection on Feminist Philosophies of Science. New York, NY, USA: pp. 15-34.

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References found in this work

Realist Ennui and the Base Rate Fallacy.P. D. Magnus & Craig Callender - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (3):320-338.
Identity and Individuality in Classical and Quantum Physics.Steven French - 1989 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 67 (4):432 – 446.
On the Explanation for Quantum Statistics.Simon Saunders - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 37 (1):192-211.

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