Realism, irrationality, and spinor spaces

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Adrian Heathcote


Mathematics, as Eugene Wigner noted, is unreasonably effective in physics. The argument of this paper is that the disproportionate attention that philosophers have paid to discrete structures such as the natural numbers, for which a nominalist construction may be possible, has deprived us of the best argument for Platonism, which lies in continuous structures—in fields and their derived algebras, such as Clifford algebras. The argument that Wigner was making is best made with respect to such structures—in a loose sense, with respect to geometry rather than arithmetic. The purpose of the present paper is to make this connection between mathematical realism and geometrical entities. It thus constitutes an argument against formalism, for which mathematics is merely a game with humanly set rules; and nominalism, in which whatever mathematics is used is eliminable in the final analysis, by often insufficiently specified means. The hope is that light may be cast on the stubborn mysteries of the nature of quantum mechanics and its mathematical formulation, with particular reference to spinor representations—as they have been developed by Andrej Trautman. Thus, according to our argument, quantum mechanics (QM) may appear more natural, as we have better reasons to take spinor structures as irreducibly real, a view consonant with the work of Trautman and Penrose in particular.

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Heathcote, A. (2023). Realism, irrationality, and spinor spaces. Philosophical Problems in Science (Zagadnienia Filozoficzne W Nauce), (75), 15–57.


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