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Summary

Entity realism is a form of selective scientific realism, claiming that our causal interaction with unobservable entities, such as DNA molecules and atoms, justifies our belief in the existence of unobservable entities. Contrary to standard scientific realism, according to which we should believe in the approximate truth of our most empirically successful theories, entity realism endorses skepticism with respect to the truth of our theories. What warrants our belief in unobservable entities is not the truth of the theories that postulate them but our ability to causally interact with these entities and use them to intervene in other phenomena. 

Key works

Entity realism was developed by Ian Hacking [Hacking 1982 and Hacking 1983] and Nancy Cartwright [Cartwright 1983]. Objections are developed in Morrison 1990, Chakravartty 2007 and Massimi 2004.

Introductions For a comprehensive introduction to entity realism and its main problems, see chapter 2 from Chakravartty 2007. See also Hacking 1983, Cartwright 1983 and Massimi 2004.
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  1. Nancy Cartwright, Millian and/or Aristotelian.R. Crespo - forthcoming - Sapientia.
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  2. The Relativity of Theory by Moti Mizrahi: Reply by the Author.Moti Mizrahi - forthcoming - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A.
  3. Entity Realism About Mental Representations.Bence Nanay - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-17.
    The concept of mental representation has long been considered to be central concept of philosophy of mind and cognitive science. But not everyone agrees. Neo-behaviorists aim to explain the mind without positing any representations. My aim here is not to assess the merits and demerits of neo-behaviorism, but to take their challenge seriously and ask the question: What justifies the attribution of representations to an agent? Both representationalists and neo-behaviorists tend to take it for granted that the real question about (...)
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  4. An Ontology of Weak Entity Realism for HPC Kinds.Reuben Sass - forthcoming - Synthese.
    This paper defends an ontology of weak entity realism for homeostatic property cluster (HPC) theories of natural kinds, adapted from Bird’s (Synthese 195(4):1397–1426, 2018) taxonomy of such theories. Weak entity realism about HPC kinds accepts the existence of natural kinds. Weak entity realism denies two theses: that (1) HPC kinds have mind-independent essences, and that (2) HPC kinds reduce to entities, such as complex universals, posited only by metaphysical theories. Strong entity realism accepts (1) and (2), whereas moderate entity realism (...)
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  5. Jean Perrin and the Philosophers’ Stories: The Role of Multiple Determination in Determining Avogadro’s Number.Klodian Coko - 2020 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 10 (1):143-193.
    The French physicist Jean Baptiste Perrin is widely credited with providing the conclusive argument for atomism. The most well-known part of Perrin’s argument is his description of thirteen different procedures for determining Avogadro’s number (N)–the number of atoms, ions, and molecules contained in a gram-atom, gram-ion, and gram-mole of a substance, respectively. Because of its success in ending the atomism debates Perrin’s argument has been the focus of much philosophical interest. The various philosophers, however, have reached different conclusions, not only (...)
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  6. What Was Perrin Really Doing in His Proof of the Reality of Atoms?Robert Hudson - 2020 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 10 (1):194-218.
  7. Reflections on the Reception of Jean Perrin’s Experiments by His Contemporaries.Milena Ivanova - 2020 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 10 (1):219-224.
  8. Entity Realism and Singularist Semirealism.Bence Nanay - 2019 - Synthese 196 (2):499-517.
    Entity realism is the view that ‘a good many theoretical entities do really exist’. The main novelty of entity realism was that it provided an account of scientific realism that did not have to endorse realism about theories—the general proposal was that entity realism is noncommittal about whether we should be realist about scientific theories. I argue that the only way entity realists can resist the pull of straight scientific realism about theories is by endorsing a recent new player in (...)
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  9. Realizm zreformowany. Filozofia Iana Hackinga a spór o status poznawczy wiedzy naukowej.Mateusz Kotowski - 2016 - Wrocław: Oficyna Naukowa PFF.
  10. What is Hacking’s Argument for Entity Realism?Boaz Miller - 2016 - Synthese 193 (3):991-1006.
    According to Ian Hacking’s Entity Realism, unobservable entities that scientists carefully manipulate to study other phenomena are real. Although Hacking presents his case in an intuitive, attractive, and persuasive way, his argument remains elusive. I present five possible readings of Hacking’s argument: a no-miracle argument, an indispensability argument, a transcendental argument, a Vichian argument, and a non-argument. I elucidate Hacking’s argument according to each reading, and review their strengths, their weaknesses, and their compatibility with each other.
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  11. Methodological Realism and Modal Resourcefulness: Out of the Web and Into the Mine.Lydia Patton - 2015 - Synthese 192 (11):3443-3462.
    Psillos, Kitcher, and Leplin have defended convergent scientific realism against the pessimistic meta-induction by arguing for the divide et impera strategy. I argue that DEI faces a problem more serious than the pessimistic meta-induction: the problem of accretion. When empirically successful theories and principles are combined, they may no longer make successful predictions or allow for accurate calculations, or the combination otherwise may be an empirical failure. The shift from classical mechanics to the new quantum theory does not reflect the (...)
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  12. Roy Bhaskar and Ian Hacking. The Problem of Scientific Realism in the Light of Philosophical Reflection on the Laboratory.Marek Sikora - 2015 - Filozofia Nauki 23 (1):27-38.
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  13. 5 Causal Warrant for the Neutrino: A Case Study.Matthias Egg - 2014 - In Scientific Realism in Particle Physics: A Causal Approach. De Gruyter. pp. 67-78.
  14. 2 Entity Realism.Matthias Egg - 2014 - In Scientific Realism in Particle Physics: A Causal Approach. De Gruyter. pp. 19-32.
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  15. Recalling a Habermas-Inspired Experimental Realism: Hans Radder: The Material Realization of Science: From Habermas to Experimentation and Referential Realism. Revised Edition, with a New Postscript. Dordrecht: Springer, 2012, Xix+205pp, €106,95 HB. [REVIEW]Juha Saatsi - 2014 - Metascience 23 (2):339-341.
    This is a revised edition of Hans Radder’s Habermas-inspired study of scientific experimentation and realism. The previous English edition (1988) has been out of print since 2004 (The book first appeared in Dutch in 1984). The author (together with the editors of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science) has deemed it worthy of resuscitation. Perhaps it is. There are certainly a number of lasting elements of continuing interest, some of which indeed strike to the heart of the contemporary (...)
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  16. The Debate over Scientific Realism.Chrysovalantis 5. Stergiou - 2013 - In Aristidis Baltas & Kostas Stergiopoulos (eds.), Philosophy and Sciences in Twentieth Century. Crete University Press. pp. 467-498.
  17. Scientific Mythbusting: Alberto A. Martínez: Science Secrets: The Truth About Darwin’s Finches, Einstein’s Wife, and Other Myths. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011, 344pp, $24.95 HB.Robert P. Crease - 2013 - Metascience 22 (2):509-511.
  18. Did Perrin’s Experiments Convert Poincaré to Scientific Realism?Milena Ivanova - 2013 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 3 (1):1-19.
    In this paper I argue that Poincaré’s acceptance of the atom does not indicate a shift from instrumentalism to scientific realism. I examine the implications of Poincaré’s acceptance of the existence of the atom for our current understanding of his philosophy of science. Specifically, how can we understand Poincaré’s acceptance of the atom in structural realist terms? I examine his 1912 paper carefully and suggest that it does not entail scientific realism in the sense of acceptance of the fundamental existence (...)
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  19. ‘I Am a Philosopher of the Particular Case’: An Interview with the 2009 Holberg Prizewinner Ian Hacking.Ole Jacob Madsen, Johannes Servan & Simen Andersen Øyen - 2013 - History of the Human Sciences 26 (3):32-51.
    When Ian Hacking won the Holberg International Memorial Prize 2009 his candidature was said to strengthen the legitimacy of the prize after years of controversy. Ole Jacob Madsen, Johannes Servan and Simen Andersen Øyen have talked to Ian Hacking about current questions in the philosophy and history of science.
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  20. Wissenschaft und Realität. Versuch eines pragmatischen Empirismus.Karim Bschir - 2012 - Mohr Siebeck.
    Versuch eines pragmatischen Empirismus Karim Bschir. vom Rationalismus abzugrenzen, welcher neben der Erfahrung auch die reine Verstandestätigkeit als Erkenntnisquelle zulässt. Auf der anderen Seite benutzt man „Empirismus“ bzw.
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  21. Causation, Principle of Common Cause and Theoretical Explanation: Wesley C. Salmon and G. W. F. Hegel.Igor Hanzel - 2012 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 43 (1):29-44.
    The aim of this article is to analyze the main contributions of Wesley C. Salmon to the philosophy of science, that is, his concepts of causation, common cause, and theoretical explanation, and to provide a critique of them. This critique will be based on a comparison of Salmon's concepts with categories developed by Hegel in his Science of Logic, and which can be applied to the issues treated by Salmon by means of the above given three concepts. It is the (...)
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  22. Reference, Success and Entity Realism.Howard Sankey - 2012 - Kairos. Revista de Filosofia and Ciência 5:31-42.
    The paper discusses the version of entity realism presented by Ian Hacking in his book, Representing and Intervening. Hacking holds that an ontological form of scientific realism, entity realism, may be defended on the basis of experimental practices which involve the manipulation of unobservable entities. There is much to be said in favour of the entity realist position that Hacking defends, especially the pragmatist orientation of his approach to realism. But there are problems with the position. The paper explores two (...)
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  23. Beyond Theories: Cartwright and Hacking.William Seager - 2012 - In James R. Brown (ed.), Philosophy of Science: The Key Thinkers. Continuum Books. pp. 213.
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  24. Appearance or Existence of the Entity Realism 'Sense'or Mind.A. Yazdani - 2012 - In Torres Juan, Pombo Olga, Symons John & Rahman Shahid (eds.), Special Sciences and the Unity of Science. Springer. pp. 269--276.
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  25. Integrating History and Philosophy of Science.Theodore Arabatzis - 2011 - Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 263:125-139.
    In this chapter I investigate the prospects of integrated history and philosophy of science, by examining how philosophical issues raised by “hidden entities”, entities that are not accessible to unmediated observation, can enrich the historical investigation of their careers. Conversely, I suggest that the history of those entities has important lessons to teach to the philosophy of science. Hidden entities have played a crucial role in the development of the natural sciences. Despite their centrality to past scientific practice, however, several (...)
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  26. What Exactly is Stabilized When Phenomena Are Stabilized?Uljana Feest - 2011 - Synthese 182 (1):57-71.
    The last two decades have seen a rising interest in (a) the notion of a scientific phenomenon as distinct from theories and data, and (b) the intricacies of experimentally producing and stabilizing phenomena. This paper develops an analysis of the stabilization of phenomena that integrates two aspects that have largely been treated separately in the literature: one concerns the skills required for empirical work; the other concerns the strategies by which claims about phenomena are validated. I argue that in order (...)
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  27. The Pitfalls of Microphysical Realism.Muhammad Ali Khalidi - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (5):1156-1164.
    Microphysical realism is the position that the only real entities and properties are found at the most fundamental level of nature. In this article, I challenge microphysical realism concerning properties and natural kinds. One argument for microphysical realism about entities, the “nothing-but argument,” does not apply to properties and kinds. Another argument, the “causal exclusion argument,” cannot be sustained in light of modern physics. Moreover, this argument leads to an objection against microphysical realism, based on the “illusoriness of macroproperties.” Another (...)
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  28. Huge Prize for Hacking.Brook Lewis - 2011 - The Philosophers' Magazine 48:5.
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  29. Hartmann, Hoefer & Bovens, Eds. 2008. Nancy Cartwright’s Philosophy of Science.Sergio F. Martínez - 2011 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 26 (1):90-93.
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  30. Nancy Cartwright’s Philosophy of Science. [REVIEW]Sergio F. Martínez - 2011 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 26 (1):90-93.
  31. Representing and Narrativizing Science.Paola Spinozzi - 2011 - In Brian Hurwitz & Paola Spinozzi (eds.), Discourses and Narrations in the Biosciences. V&R Unipress. pp. 8--31.
  32. Transcendental Realisms in the Philosophy of Science: On Bhaskar and Cartwright.Stephen Clarke - 2010 - Synthese 173 (3):299-315.
    I consider two transcendental arguments for realism in the philosophy of science, which are due to Roy Bhaskar (A realist theory of science, 1975) and Nancy Cartwright (The dappled world, 1999). Bhaskar and Cartwright are both influential figures, however there is little discussion of their use of transcendental arguments in the literature. Here I seek to correct this oversight. I begin by describing the role of the transcendental arguments in question, in the context of the broader philosophical theories in which (...)
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  33. Hacking’s Historical Epistemology: A Critique of Styles of Reasoning.Martin Kusch - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (2):158-173.
    The paper begins with a detailed reconstruction of the development of Ian Hacking’s theory of scientific ‘styles of reasoning’, paying particular attention to Alistair Crombie’s influence, and suggesting that Hacking’s theory deserves to come under the title ‘historical epistemology’. Subsequently, the paper seeks to establish three critical theses. First, Hacking’s reliance on Crombie leads him to adopt an outdated historiographical position; second, Hacking is unsuccessful in his attempt to distance historical epistemology from epistemic relativism; and third, Hacking has not offered (...)
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  34. Astronomy and Experimentation.Michelle Sandell - 2010 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 14 (3):252-269.
    In this paper I contest Ian Hacking’s claim that astronomers do not experiment. Riding on this thesis is a re-evaluation of his view that astronomers are less justified than other natural scientists in believing in the existence of the objects they study, and that astronomers are not proper natural scientists at all. The defense of my position depends upon carefully examining what, exactly, is being manipulated in an experiment, and the role of experimental effects for Hacking’s experimental realism. I argue (...)
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  35. Objects, Causation, and Scientific Realism.Martin Schmidt - 2010 - Filozofia 65 (7):643-651.
    There is a growing pessimism about objects based on the view that objects are mysterious unobservables. According to this line of thought objects can disturb our senses or measuring devices only indirectly, via properties or relations – only properties or relations are observables, not the objects per se. As a result, inaccessible objects open a gap between science and reality and scientific realism is lost. Defenders of objects may respond that the scope of this reasoning is rather limited, because its (...)
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  36. Cartwright on Causality: Methods, Metaphysics and Modularity Hunting Causes and Using Them: Approaches in Philosophy and Economics , Nancy Cartwright. Cambridge University Press, 2008, X + 270 Pages. [REVIEW]Daniel Steel - 2010 - Economics and Philosophy 26 (1):77-86.
  37. Can Hacking's Conception of Manipulated Unobservable Entities Overcome the Underdetermination Thesis?Sim-hui Tee & Mohd Hazim Shah Hj Abdul Murad - 2010 - Philosophy Pathways 156.
  38. Review of Stephan Hartmann, Carl Hoefer, Luc Bovens (Eds.), Nancy Cartwright's Philosophy of Science[REVIEW]Mathias Frisch - 2009 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (3).
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  39. Review of Anjan Chakravartty, A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism: Knowing the Unobservable[REVIEW]James Ladyman - 2009 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (6).
    Review of Anjan Chakravartty: 'A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism: Knowing the Unobservable', Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
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  40. Causality and Critical Theory: Nature's Order in Adorno, Cartwright and Bhaskar.Craig Reeves - 2009 - Journal of Critical Realism 8 (3):316-342.
    In this paper I argue that Theodor W. Adorno 's philosophy of freedom needs an ontological picture of the world. Adorno does not make his view of natural order explicit, but I suggest it could be neither the chaotic nor the strictly determined ontological images common to idealism and positivism, and that it would have to make intelligible the possibility both of human freedom and of critical social science. I consider two possible candidates, Nancy Cartwright 's ‘patchwork of laws’, and (...)
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  41. The Pregnancy of the Real: A Phenomenological Defense of Experimental Realism.Shannon Vallor - 2009 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 52 (1):1 – 25.
    This paper develops a phenomenological defense of Ian Hacking's experimental realism about unobservable entities in physical science, employing historically undervalued resources from the phenomenological tradition in order to clarify the warrant for our ontological commitments in science. Building upon the work of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and Heelan, the paper provides a phenomenological correction of the positivistic conception of perceptual evidence maintained by antirealists such as van Fraassen, the experimental relevance of which is illustrated through a phenomenological interpretation of the 1974 discovery (...)
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  42. Experimenting on (and with) Hidden Entities: The Inextricability of Representation and Intervention.T. Arabatzis - 2008 - In U. Feest & G. Hon (eds.), Generating Experimental Knowledge. Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. pp. 7--17.
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  43. Reconsidering Experimental Realism.Ruey-Lin Chen - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 43:33-41.
    This paper discusses Hacking’s experimental realism and suggests a concept of realization to the issue about realism. I first rephrase Hacking’s experimental realism by reconstructing them into two theses and three arguments. Then I consider that Resnik’s objection to Hacking’s experimental realism. According to my understanding of Hacking’s experimental realism, Resnik’s objection failed because of his position at theory realism. Nevertheless, I think that there are still two problems about the experimental aspect of the experimental realism. They are the pessimistic (...)
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  44. Nancy Cartwright’s Philosophy of Science.Stephan Hartmann, Luc Bovens & Carl Hoefer - 2008 - Routledge.
    Nancy Cartwright is one of the most distinguished and influential contemporary philosophers of science. Despite the profound impact of her work, there is neither a systematic exposition of Cartwright’s philosophy of science nor a collection of articles that contains in-depth discussions of the major themes of her philosophy. This book is devoted to a critical assessment of Cartwright’s philosophy of science and contains contributions from Cartwright's champions and critics. Broken into three parts, the book begins by addressing Cartwright's views on (...)
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  45. Explanatory Warrant for Scientific Realism.Robert Pierson & Richard Reiner - 2008 - Synthese 161 (2):271 - 282.
    Nancy Cartwright relies upon an inference pattern known as inference to the best causal explanation (IBCE) to support a limited form of entity realism, according to which we are warranted in believing in entities that purportively cause observable effects. IBCE, as usually understood, is valid, even though all other forms of inference to the best explanation (IBE) are usually understood to be invalid. We argue that IBCE and IBE are in the same boat with respect to their ability to support (...)
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  46. Experimental Realism Reconsidered: How Inference to the Most Likely Cause Might Be Sound.Mauricio Suárez - 2008 - In Nancy Cartwright, Stephan Hartmann, Carl Hoefer & Luc Bovens (eds.), Nancy Cartwright’s Philosophy of Science. Routledge. pp. 137--63.
  47. Comment on Cartwright's “In Praise of The Representation Theorem”.Patrick Suppes - 2008 - In W. K. Essler & M. Frauchiger (eds.), Representation, Evidence, and Justification: Themes From Suppes. Ontos Verlag. pp. 2--91.
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  48. Theodore Arabatzis, Representing Electrons: A Biographical Approach to Theoretical Entities, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, ISBN 0-226-02420-2 2005 (296 Pp., US$ 70.00, Cloth). [REVIEW]M. Macleod - 2007 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 38 (1):226-229.
  49. Entity Realism Meets the Pessimistic Meta-Induction – The World is Not Enough.Jacob Busch - 2006 - SATS 7 (106):26.
    In the following I briefly set out Devitt's (1997) definition of entity realism and compare it to Hacking's (1983) definition. I then set out the pessimistic induction argument as suggested by Putnam (1978). I present an argument developed by Bertolet (1988) to the effect that Devitt's abductive defence of realism fails. In the light of its failure, Devitt offers the ability of his definition of scientific realism to solve the pessimistic induction argument as a tactical advantage for his definition. I (...)
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  50. Holism and Structuralism in Classical and Quantum General Relativity.Mauro Dorato & Massimo Pauri - 2006 - In Dean Rickles, Steven French & Juha Saatsi (eds.), The Structural Foundations of Quantum Gravity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 121-151.
    The main aim of our paper is to show that interpretative issues belonging to classical General Relativity (GR) might be preliminary to a deeper understanding of conceptual problems stemming from on-going attempts at constructing a quantum theory of gravity. Among such interpretative issues, we focus on the meaning of general covariance and the related question of the identity of points, by basing our investigation on the Hamiltonian formulation of GR. In particular, we argue that the adoption of a peculiar gauge-fixing (...)
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