Primitive Ontology or Primitive Relations?

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Ruyant, Quentin
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preprint description
Primitive ontology is a program which seeks to make explicit the ontological commitments of physical theories in terms of a distribution of matter in ordinary space-time. This program targets wave-function realism, which interprets the high-dimensional configuration space on which wave-functions are defined as our fundamental physical space. Wave-function realism allegedly fails to account for a correspondence between the ontology it postulates and the ‘manifest image’ of the world in which experimental tests of the theory are performed, and therefore the wave-function must be completed with an additional structure which describes what fundamentally exists in ordinary space-time: the ‘primitive ontol- ogy’. However primitive ontologies face some difficulties, in particular concerning the ontological status of the wave-function. In this paper, I defend a realist inter- pretation of the wave-function as describing objects in ordinary space-time, which does not require supplementing the theory with additional structure. The main dif- ference between this proposal and other primitive ontology proposals is that the fundamental constituents of reality are not conceived of as localised objects, but as primitive relations. This interpretation purports to share the advantages of both wave-function realism and primitive ontologies without facing the same difficulties. I argue that the need for an additional structure stems from a commitment to the locality of the fundamental constituents of reality, and that such commitment is unnecessary for recovering the manifest image of the world.