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Title: Issues of identity and individuality in quantum mechanics
Author: Caulton, Adam
ISNI:       0000 0004 5359 6872
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2015
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This dissertation is ordered into three Parts. Part I is an investigation into identity, indiscernibility and individuality in logic and metaphysics. In Chapter 2, I investigate identity and discernibility in classical first-order logic. My aim will will be to define four different ways in which objects can be discerned from one another, and to relate these definitions: (i) to the idea of symmetry; and (ii) to the idea of individuality. In Chapter 3, the four kinds of discernibility are put to use in defining four rival metaphysical theses about indiscernibility and individuality. Part II sets up a philosophical framework for the work of Part III. In Chapter 4, I give an account of the rational reconstruction of concepts, inspired chiefly by Carnap and Haslanger. I also offer an account of the interpretation of physical theories. In Chapter 5, I turn to the specific problem of finding candidate concepts of particle. I present five desiderata that any putative explication ought to satisfy, in order that the proposed concept is a concept of particle at all. Part III surveys three rival proposals for the concept of particle in quantum mechanics. In Chapter 6, I define factorism and distinguish it from haecceitism. I then propose an amendment to recent work by Saunders, Muller and Seevinck, which seeks to show that factorist particles are all at least weakly discernible. I then present reasons for rejecting factorism. In Chapter 7, I investigate and build on recent heterodox proposals by Ghirardi, Marinatto and Weber about the most natural concept of entanglement, and by Zanardi about the idea of a natural decomposition of an assembly. In Chapter 8, I appraise the first of my two heterodox proposals for the concept of particle, varietism. I define varietism, and then compare its performance against the desiderata laid out in Chapter 5. I argue that, despite its many merits, varietism suffers a fatal ambiguity problem. In Chapter 9, I present the second heterodox proposal: emergentism. I argue that emergentism provides the best concept of particle, but that it is does so imperfectly; so there may be no concept of particle to be had in quantum mechanics. If emergentism is true, then particles are (higher-order) properties of the assembly, itself treated as the basic bearer of properties.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Quantum mechanics ; Identity ; Individuality ; Discernibility ; Particle ; Entanglement