We demonstrate that the quantum-mechanical description of composite physical systems of an arbitrary number of similar fermions in all their admissible states, mixed or pure, for all finite-dimensional Hilbert spaces, is not in conflict with Leibniz's Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles (PII). We discern the fermions by means of physically meaningful, permutation-invariant categorical relations, i.e. relations independent of the quantum-mechanical probabilities. If, indeed, probabilistic relations are permitted as well, we argue that similar bosons can also be discerned in all (...) their admissible states; but their categorical discernibility turns out to be a state-dependent matter. In all demonstrated cases of discernibility, the fermions and the bosons are discerned (i) with only minimal assumptions on the interpretation of quantum mechanics; (ii) without appealing to metaphysical notions, such as Scotusian haecceitas, Lockean substrata, Postian transcendental individuality or Adamsian primitive thisness; and (iii) without revising the general framework of classical elementary predicate logic and standard set theory, thus without revising standard mathematics. This confutes: (a) the currently dominant view that, provided (i) and (ii), the quantum-mechanical description of such composite physical systems always conflicts with PII; and (b) that if PII can be saved at all, the only way to do it is by adopting one or other of the thick metaphysical notions mentioned above. Among the most general and influential arguments for the currently dominant view are those due to Schrödinger, Margenau, Cortes, Dalla Chiara, Di Francia, Redhead, French, Teller, Butterfield, Giuntini, Mittelstaedt, Castellani, Krause and Huggett. We review them succinctly and critically as well as related arguments by van Fraassen and Massimi. Introduction: The Currently Dominant View 1.1 Weyl on Leibniz's principle 1.2 Intermezzo: Terminology and Leibnizian principles 1.3 The rise of the currently dominant view 1.4 Overview Elements of Quantum Mechanics 2.1 Physical states and physical magnitudes 2.2 Composite physical systems of similar particles 2.3 Fermions and bosons 2.4 Physical properties 2.5 Varieties of quantum mechanics Analysis of Arguments 3.1 Analysis of the Standard Argument 3.2 Van Fraassen's analysis 3.3 Massimi's analysis The Logic of Identity and Discernibility 4.1 The language of quantum mechanics 4.2 Identity of physical systems 4.3 Indiscernibility of physical systems 4.4 Some kinds of discernibility Discerning Elementary Particles 5.1 Preamble 5.2 Fermions 5.3 Bosons Concluding Discussion CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
We demonstrate that the quantum-mechanical description of composite physical systems of an arbitrary number of similar fermions in all their admissible states, mixed or pure, for all finite-dimensional Hilbert-spaces, is not in conflict with Leibniz’s Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles (PII). We discern the fermions by means of physically meaningful, permutation-invariant categorical relations, i.e.
We maximally extend the quantum‐mechanical results of Muller and Saunders ( 2008 ) establishing the ‘weak discernibility’ of an arbitrary number of similar fermions in finite‐dimensional Hilbert spaces. This confutes the currently dominant view that ( A ) the quantum‐mechanical description of similar particles conflicts with Leibniz’s Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles (PII); and that ( B ) the only way to save PII is by adopting some heavy metaphysical notion such as Scotusian haecceitas or Adamsian primitive thisness. (...) We take sides with Muller and Saunders ( 2008 ) against this currently dominant view, which has been expounded and defended by many. *Received July 2008; revised May 2009. †To contact the authors, please write to: F. A. Muller, Faculty of Philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Burg. Oudlaan 50, H5–16, 3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands; e‐mail: email@example.com , and Institute for the History and Foundations of Science, Utrecht University, Budapestlaan 6, IGG–3.08, 3584 CD Utrecht, The Netherlands; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . M. P. Seevinck, Institute for the History and Foundations of Science, Utrecht University, Budapestlaan 6, IGG–3.08, 3584 CD Utrecht, The Netherlands; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)