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Discerning “indistinguishable” quantum systems

Caulton, Adam (2013) Discerning “indistinguishable” quantum systems. Philosophy of Science, 80 (1). pp. 49-72. ISSN 0031-8248

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Identification Number: 10.1086/668874


In a series of recent papers, Simon Saunders, Fred Muller, and Michael Seevinck have collectively argued, against the folklore, that some nontrivial version of Leibniz’s principle of the identity of indiscernibles is upheld in quantum mechanics. They argue that all particles—fermions, paraparticles, anyons, even bosons—may be weakly discerned by some physical relation. Here I show that their arguments make illegitimate appeal to nonsymmetric, that is, permutation-noninvariant, quantities and that therefore their conclusions do not go through. However, I show that alternative, symmetric quantities may be found to do the required work. I conclude that the Saunders-Muller-Seevinck heterodoxy can be saved.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 Philosophy of Science Association
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2013 14:39
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:05
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council, Jacobsen Trust

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