Levels of Fundamentality in the Metaphysics of Physics


Within physics there are two ways of establishing the relative fundamentality of one theory compared to another, via two senses of reduction: "inter-level" and "intra-level" (Crowther, 2018). The former is standardly recognised as roughly correlating with the chain of ontological dependence (i.e., the phenomena described by theories of macro-physics are typically supposed to be ontologically dependent on the entities/behaviour described by theories of micro-physics), and thus has been of interest to naturalised metaphysics. The latter, though, has not been considered interesting for metaphysics, because it is not thought to correlate either with ontological dependence, nor causal or dynamical dependence. I argue, however, that this is a mistake, and that actually, the intra-level relation does reflect ontological dependence (in the same sense as the inter-level relation) and thus should not be neglected by metaphysics of physics. This argument further supports the assertion that the same notion of fundamentality underlies both the inter- and intra-level claims of fundamentality in physics, and that this notion of relative fundamentality in physics correlates with that of metaphysics.

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Karen Crowther
University of Oslo


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