Objects or events?: Towards an ontology for quantum field theory

Philosophy of Science 66 (3):184 (1999)
The recent work of Paul Teller and Sunny Auyang in the philosophy of Quantum Field Theory (QFT) has stimulated the search for the fundamental entities in this theory. In QFT, the classical notion of a particle collapses. The theory does not only exclude classical, i.e., spatiotemporally identifiable particles, but it makes particles of the same type conceptually indistinguishable. Teller and Auyang have proposed competing ersatz-ontologies to account for the 'loss of particles': field quanta vs. field events. Both ontologies, however, suffer from serious defects. While quanta lack numerical identity, spatiotemporal localizability, and independence of basis-representations, events--if understood as concrete measurement events--are related to the theory only statistically. I propose an alternative solution: The entities of QFT are events of the type 'Quantum system, S, is in quantum state, Ψ '. These are not point events, but Davidsonian events, i.e., they can be identified by their location within the causal net of the world
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DOI 10.1086/392723
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