The Structure of the World: Metaphysics and Representation

ISBN : 9780198776666

Steven French
416 ページ
156 x 234 mm

In The Structure of the World, Steven French articulates and defends the bold claim that there are no objects. At the most fundamental level, modern physics presents us with a world of structures and making sense of that view is the central aim of the increasingly widespread position known as structural realism. Drawing on contemporary work in metaphysics and philosophy of science, as well as the 'forgotten' history of structural realism itself, French attempts to further ground and develop this position. He argues that structural realism offers the best way of balancing our need to accommodate the results of modern science with our desire to arrive at an appropriately informed understanding of the world that science presents to us. Covering not only the realism-antirealism debate, the nature of representation, and the relationship between metaphysics and science, The Structure of the World defends a form of eliminativism about objects that sets laws and symmetry principles at the heart of ontology. In place of a world of microscopic objects banging into one another and governed by the laws of physics, it offers a world of laws and symmetries, on which determinate physical properties are dependent. In presenting this account, French also tackles the distinction between mathematical and physical structures, the nature of laws, and causality in the context of modern physics, and he concludes by exploring the extent to which structural realism can be extended into chemistry and biology.


1 Theory Change: From Fresnel's Equations to Group Theoretic Structure
2 Mixing in the Metaphysics 1--Underdermination
3 Mixing in the Metaphysics 2--Humility
4 Scenes from the Lost History of Structuralism
5 The Presentation of Objects and the Representation of Structure
6 OSR and 'Group Structural Realism'
7 The Elimination of Objects
8 Mathematics, 'Physical' Structure and the Nature of Causation
9 Modality, Structures, and Dispositions
10 The Might of Modal Structuralism
11 Structure, Modality, and Unitary Inequivalence
12 Shifting to Structures in Biology and Beyond


Steven French taught in Brazil and the USA before moving to Leeds in 1993. He is Professor of the Philosophy of Science and the author or editor of six books and over ninety papers. His principal areas of research are the metaphysical foundations of quantum physics, the nature of theories, and structural realism. He is a former President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science and Co-Editor in Chief of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.