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Why non-individuality? A discussion on individuality, identity, and cardinality in the quantum context

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  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Philosophy
  • Physics


Recently, in the debate about the ontology of quantum mechanics some authors have defended the view that quantum particles are individuals in a primitive sense, so that individuality should be preferred over non-individuality (the alternative option). Primitive individuality involves two main claims: i) every item is identical with itself and ii) it is distinct from every other item. Non-relativistic quantum mechanics is said to provide positive evidence for that position, since in every situation comprising multiple particles there is a well-defined number of them to begin with, and so they must be distinct from each other. We argue that the link between a well-defined number of items and the relation of identity that is being claimed is not imposed by quantum mechanics, but rather by a metaphysical view. Formal evidence is advanced in favor of the thesis that counting may be performed for items without identity (non-individuals), so that quantum mechanics may not be viewed as endorsing an ontology of individuals.

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