No Categorial Support for Radical Ontic Structural Realism

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (3):605-634 (2015)
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Abstract

Radical ontic structural realism (ROSR) asserts an ontological commitment to ‘free-standing’ physical structures understood solely in terms of fundamental relations, without any recourse to relata that stand in these relations. Bain ([2013], pp.1621–35) has recently defended ROSR against the common charge of incoherence by arguing that a reformulation of fundamental physical theories in category-theoretic terms (rather than the usual set-theoretic ones) offers a coherent and precise articulation of the commitments accepted by ROSR. In this essay, we argue that category theory does not offer a more hospitable environment to ROSR than set theory. We also show that the application of category-theoretic tools to topological quantum field theory and to algebraic generalizations of general relativity do not warrant the claim that these theories describe ‘object-free’ structures. We conclude that category theory offers little if any comfort to ROSR. 1 Introduction: Ridding Structures of Objects2 The Set-theoretic Peril for Radical Ontic Structural Realism3 Bain’s Categorial Strategy to Save Radical Ontic Structural Realism4 Throwing out the Relations with the Relata5 Categorial and Set-theoretical Structures6 Radical Suggestions from Topological Quantum Field Theory?7 Sheaves of Einstein Algebras as Radical Structures?8 Conclusions.

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References found in this work

Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized.James Ladyman & Don Ross - 2007 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized.James Ladyman & Don Ross - 2007 - In James Ladyman, Don Ross, David Spurrett & John Collier (eds.), Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized. Oxford University Press.
Emergent spacetime and empirical (in) coherence.Nick Huggett & Christian Wüthrich - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (3):276-285.

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