Modern particle physics suggests an intriguing vision of physical reality: we are to imagine the symmetries of the world as fundamental, whereas the material constituents of the world are ontologically derivative of them. This paper develops a novel ontology for non-relativistic quantum mechanics which gives precise metaphysical content to this vision.
Physicists have suggested what I call symmetry fundamentalism: the view that symmetries are fundamental aspects of physical reality and that these aspects are more fundamental than what one might ordinarily think of as the fundamental building blocks of the world, such as elementary particles. The goal of this paper is to develop an ontology for classical particle mechanics that provides a precise instance of symmetry fundamentalism.
It is common ground among proponents and detractors of wavefunction realism that the view ‘privileges position’, in the sense that it arbitrarily singles out one among a continuum infinity of wavefunction representations as characterizing the fundamental field: the position representation. This paper shows that, properly understood, wavefunction realism does not involve such an arbitrary choice. First, I argue that, though each wavefunction representation gives rise to a different version of wavefunction realism, the difference between these theories amounts to a mere (...) haecceitistic difference. Second, I argue that wavefunction realists should reconceive of their view as a role-based thesis that is silent about the relevant haecceitistic differences. (shrink)
Fundamental physics contains an important link between properties of elementary particles and continuous symmetries of particle systems. For example, properties such as mass and spin are said to be 'associated' with specific continuous symmetries. -/- These 'associations' have played a key role in the discovery of various new particle kinds, but more importantly: they are thought to provide a deep insight into the nature of physical reality. The link between properties and symmetries has been said to call for a radical (...) revision of perceived metaphysical orthodoxy. However, if we are to use claims about an 'association' between properties and symmetries in the articulation of metaphysical views, we first need to develop a sufficiently precise understanding of the content of these claims. The goal of this paper is to do just that. (shrink)
The decoherent histories formalism, developed by Griffiths, Gell-Mann, and Hartle (in Phys. Rev. A 76:022104, 2007; arXiv:1106.0767v3 [quant-ph], 2011; Consistent Quantum Theory, Cambridge University Press, 2003; arXiv:gr-qc/9304006v2, 1992) is a general framework in which to formulate a timeless, ‘generalised’ quantum theory and extract predictions from it. Recent advances in spin foam models allow for loop gravity to be cast in this framework. In this paper, I propose a decoherence functional for loop gravity and interpret existing results (Bianchi et al. in (...) Phys. Rev. D 83:104015, 2011; Phys. Rev. D 82:084035, 2010) as showing that coarse grained histories follow quasiclassical trajectories in the appropriate limit. (shrink)