Fundamentality, Scale, and the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect
We examine arguments for distinguishing between ontological and epistemological concepts of fundamentality, focusing in particular on the role that scale plays in these concepts. Using the fractional quantum Hall effect as a case study, we show that we can draw a distinction between ontologically fundamental and non-fundamental theories without insisting that it is only the fundamental theories that get the ontology right: there are cases where non-fundamental theories involve distinct ontologies that better characterize real systems than fundamental ones do. In order to reconcile these distinct ontologies between fundamental and non-fundamental theories, we suggest that ontology must be understood as scale-dependent.
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Institute for Advanced Study