Grades of individuality. A pluralistic view of identity in quantum mechanics and in the sciences

Philosophical Studies 163 (3):591-610 (2013)
Abstract
This paper offers a critical assessment of the current state of the debate about the identity and individuality of material objects. Its main aim, in particular, is to show that, in a sense to be carefully specified, the opposition between the Leibnizian ‘reductionist’ tradition, based on discernibility, and the sort of ‘primitivism’ that denies that facts of identity and individuality must be analysable has become outdated. In particular, it is argued that—contrary to a widespread consensus—‘naturalised’ metaphysics supports both the acceptability of non-qualitatively grounded (both ‘contextual’ and intrinsic) identity and a pluralistic approach to individuality and individuation. A case study is offered that focuses on non-relativistic quantum mechanics, in the context of which primitivism about identity and individuality, rather than being regarded as unscientific, is on the contrary suggested to be preferable to the complicated forms of reductionism that have recently been proposed. More generally, by assuming a plausible form of anti-reductionism about scientific theories and domains, it is claimed that science can be regarded as compatible with, or even as suggesting, the existence of a series of equally plausible grades of individuality. The kind of individuality that prevails in a certain context and at a given level can be ascertained only on the basis of the specific scientific theory at hand
Keywords Individuality  Discernibility  Identity  Reductionism  Primitivism  Contextualism  Quantum mechanics
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References found in this work BETA
Jeremy Butterfield (1993). Interpretation and Identity in Quantum Theory. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 24 (3):443--76.
Jeremy Butterfield (1989). The Hole Truth. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 40 (1):1-28.

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Citations of this work BETA
Jonas Becker Arenhart & Décio Krause (2014). From Primitive Identity to the Non-Individuality of Quantum Objects. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 46:273-282.
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Johanna Seibt (1996). Non-Countable Individuals. Southwest Philosophy Review 12 (1):225-236.
Steven French (1989). Identity and Individuality in Classical and Quantum Physics. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 67 (4):432 – 446.
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