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Physics without fundamentality

McKenzie, Kerry (2012) Physics without fundamentality. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

Two assumptions pervade contemporary metaphysics: that there is a fundamental level to reality, and that physics will one day describe it. In the first part of this thesis, I consider whether physics may have a greater role for fundamentality metaphysics than that which it is typically accorded. In particular, I consider whether physics might contribute not just to questions of the content of an assumed fundamental level, but to the existence of such a level itself. I argue that if we are to use physics to do such a thing, it must be through what I call the 'internal' approach, in which fundamentality questions are addressed through the lens of extant physical theory. Through two case studies drawn from particle physics, I show that it is indeed possible to deny fundamentality through this means - or at least, that one may do so as legitimately as one may make other propositions of physicalistic metaphysics. While this is a non-trivial achievement, the internal approach nevertheless imposes a profound limitation on the sort of fundamentality that we can use physics to deny, in that it precludes the denial of fundamental physical principles. This raises the question of whether such principles ought to be regarded as somehow more fundamental even than particles. I argue that this question is naturally construed as the question of whether we ought to regard the category of dynamical structures as more ontologically fundamental than the category of objects. The claim that structure is ontologically prior to objects is the signature claim of ontic structuralism, and in the second part of this thesis I consider whether it can be defended. I ultimately argue that structuralism can indeed be supported, but that it is only its moderate version that is vindicated.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.567586
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2013 13:12
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 11:24
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4052

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