How Do Things Persist? Location Relations in Physics and the Metaphysics of Persistence: How Do Things Persist?

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Dialectica, ISSN: 0012-2017, Vol: 70, Issue: 3, Page: 269-309

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Thomas Pashby
Wiley-Blackwell, Blackwell-Wiley
Arts and Humanities
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This paper investigates the use of theories of mechanics (classical and quantum) to provide answers to questions in the metaphysics of spatial location and persistence. Investigating spatial location, I find that in classical physics bodies pertend the region of space at which they are exactly located, while a quantum system spans a region at which it is exactly located. Following this analysis, I present a ‘no-go’ result which shows that quantum mechanics (conventionally interpreted) restricts the available options for locational persistence theories in an interesting way: it demonstrates that the spatiotemporal path of a persisting thing is discrete (or discontinuous) in time. This leads to unpalatable consequences for both perdurantists and endurantists. In particular, I argue that Butterfield's ‘anti-pointilliste’ perdurantism is ruled out, and show that endurantists relying on immanent causation run into trouble. I conclude by suggesting the revival of Whitehead's alternative mode of persistence called ‘reiteration.’.

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