Is quantum mechanics an atomistic theory?

Shaughan Lavine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


If quantum mechanics (QM) is to be taken as an atomistic theory with the elementary particles as atoms (an ATEP), then the elementary particlcs must be individuals. There must then be, for each elementary particle a, a property "being identical with a" that a alone has. But according to QM, elementary particles of the same kind share all physical properties. Thus, if QM is an ATEP, identity is a metaphysical but not a physical property. That has unpalatable consequences. Dropping the assumption that QM is an ATEP makes it possible to replace the assumption that elementary particles are individuals with the assumption that there are various kinds of elementary 'stuff' that have smallest quantities - the smallest quantity of light, for example, is a photon. The problems about identity disappear, and the explanatory virtues of an ATEP are maintained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-271
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences(all)


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