Interesting video here: What Are Quasiparticles?: The Real “Fake” Particles of the Universe - YouTube

For me this points to it that the quantum particles really are a ‘math trick’ that simply work in a lot of situations!

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Do you mean “only a math trick” or “may just be a math trick”?

What’s the distinction you’re making between those two?

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The former means they’re definitely not actual, the latter means they may not be actual

I’m saying this video points to them being just a math trick, aka not actual - as the same math trick works for things that are clearly not actual (namely a “phonon” particle which it is admitted has no existence, it being just a way to quantify vibrations in matter, and is just a convenient way to think and conceptualize sound).

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Kind of…

Actually, the video deals superficially (in relation to the point you make) with the most crucial aspect: that of its existence. Because it’s a problem related to epistemology, ontology and emergentism.

Although the whole book “Why more is different” is very interesting, I recommend you to read Chapter 12: “How Do Quasi-Particles Exist?”, which can be found here:,%20Morrison%20M.%20(eds.)%20Why%20more%20is%20different..%20Philosophical%20issues%20in%20condensed%20matter%20physics%20and%20complex%20systems%20(FC,%20Springer,%202015)(ISBN%209783662439104)(O)(283s)%20PPop%20.pdf#page=231

In fact, for me is very much related to the essence of some aspects that you discussed with @rick in Drawing the line between feeling and fact, although I deliberately didn’t want to bring them up then.

Hi Miguel - I gathered that the contents of the philosophical article you linked to revolve around an objection raised by the article’s author Brigitte Faulkenburg to what she perceives to be Alex Gelfert’s misapplication of Ian Hacking’s criterion for evaluating/ determining the existence of an entity, in this case as it pertains to the existence of quasi-particles. Hacking summed up his criterion for evaluating the existence/ reality of an entity as: "If you can spray them, they exist”; in other literature he’s quoted, in reference to the existence of electrons, “so far as I’m concerned, if you can spray them, then they are real.” This criterion for evaluating the reality/ existence of an entity is associated with what is known as “Entity Realism”, a philosophical position which only regards as real or existent those entities that can manipulate or be manipulated, i.e., “you can spray them.” If the entity in question cannot demonstrate measurable effects then, by Hacking’s criterion, it does not exist.

Wikipedia: … ‘electrons’, should be regarded as real if and only if they refer to phenomena that can be routinely used to create effects in domains that can be investigated independently. ‘Manipulative success’ thus becomes the criterion by which to judge the reality of (typically unobservable) scientific entities. As Ian Hacking, the main proponent of this formulation of entity realism, puts it (referring to an experiment he observed in a Stanford laboratory, where electrons and positrons were sprayed, one after the other, onto a superconducting metal sphere), “if you can spray them, then they are real.”
Entity realism - Wikipedia

According to Faulkenburg, Gelfert exhibited dubious reasoning when he pointed out in his paper that the mere ability of a quasi-particle to demonstrate “manipulative success”, the essential component for satisfying Hacking’s criterion, does not necessarily reveal any genuine existence of the entity, particularly when knowledge of the nature and substance of that entity lacks what he regards as “home truths”, or subjectively familiar non-theoretical knowledge:

Faulkenburg: Gelfert’s conclusion that quasi-particles are not genuine entities, and (given their manipulative success) thus counter Hacking’s reality criterion, is based on an ambiguity in his notion of “home truth” . . . [which] are based on traditional metaphysical ideas about independent substances."

Faulkenburg finds that Gelfert’s position as a philospher, as opposed to a physicist, caused him to overlook how knowledge of the nature of quasi-particles could be considered to be rooted in so-called “home truths”, when viewed from the perspective of a physicist:

Faulkenburg: One should carefully distinguish the physicist’s and the philosopher’s “home truths”. The physicist’s “home truths” consist in familiar background knowledge about measurement methods, physical quantities such as mass/energy, charge, spin, etc., and also (a century after the rise of quantum theory) basic knowledge about quantum mechanics . . . . In contradistinction to this background knowledge of quantum physics, however, the philosopher’s “home truths” about what genuine entities should be like are rooted in metaphysics.

Faulkenburg goes on to address objections raised about the genuineness of quasi-particles based on their status of existing as “collective effects” as opposed to existing as independent entities:

Faulkenburg: Given that they do not exist on their own but only as collective effects, they seem to be fake entities rather than physical particles.

She finds that objection misplaced, and concludes the genuine reality of quasi-particles, after equating the ontological nature of quasi-particles to other phenomena that could be classified as “collective effects” yet whose existence is acknowledged and undisputed:

Faulkenburg: Indeed, quasi-particles are as real as a share value at the stock exchange. The share value is also due to a collective effect (as the very term indicates), namely the collective behavior of all investors. The analogy may be extended. It is also possible to ‘spray’ the share value in Hacking’s sense, that is, to manipulate its quotation by purchase or sale for purposes of speculation. … But would we conclude that the share value does not exist, on the sole grounds that it is a collective effect?

Relevant to the discussions that took place in Drawing a line between feeling and fact, she distinguishes between the nature of quasi-particles, which she considered to genuinely exist, and between other types of entities which she does not consider as having genuine existence, such as the mythological creature Pegasus, which she says only exists “in the tales of ancient mythology” as opposed to what she calls the “real world.”

Faulkenburg: Obviously, share values as well as quasi-particles have another ontological status than, say, Pegasus. Pegasus does not exist in the real world but only in the tales of ancient mythology.

One of my central positions in that discussion, which was articulated in 11,000+ words and will be briefly summed up here for context, was that the fact that something exists somewhere and somehow, wherever that place is – whether in the brain, in books, on television, on mountains, on beaches, on Pluto, anywhere at all – then it exists, full stop. I drew attention to the obvious fact that only existent things exist (by definition), as well as to the obvious fact that non-existent things do not exist (by definition); and because the universe (aka everything there is) exists, then literally everything exists … which means there is literally nothing that does not exist. Whether that something which exists arises inside the mind or outside of the mind doesn’t negate the fact that it exists. Finally, that which exists in fact …

Richard (2000): … actual (existing in fact) …
Mailing List 'C' Respondent No. 3

Richard (2001): … the word ‘actual’ commonly means ‘existing in act or fact …
Mailing List 'B' Respondent No. 19

Richard (1998): …‘actual’: truly existing.
Mailing List 'B' Respondent No. 22

Richard (1998): … actual means: ‘already occurring; existing as factually true’.
Mailing List 'B' Respondent No. 14

I started reading the chapter - near the beginning the author writes:

I conclude that quasi- particles are genuine quantum entities, which are as real or unreal as electrons, protons, quarks, or photons, even though all these quantum entities have quite different characteristics.

I already agree with this conclusion - the ontological status of quasiparticles is equivalent to that of electrons , photons , etc - namely, not actually existing, but rather a convenient and remarkably effective model or math trick.

Though I know Richard wrote that these particles are not actual, it has been hard for me at times to wrap my head around how can the models be so predictive and effective if the supposed particles don’t actually exist? The case of the phonons made this much easier to see for me. It’s a way to deal with collective effects in a mathematically convenient way, which is predictive (ie describes something that happens and allows us to make predictions about what will happen) without having to exist.

Perhaps It’s not unlike modeling a government or a corporation as a person, that has desires and intentions, desired approaches etc. The government or corporation doesn’t exist - it can’t have a will or desire - but it’s a useful way to model how the collective of people making up the government or corporation behave.


Yes, Faulkenburg position about the existence status of quasiparticles revolves in part around the Gelfert-Hacking positions.

Yes, she draws a line between the ontological status of quasiparticles and other entities as Pegasus.

Yes, in spite of the 11000 words it was clear that your position is that everything exists due to the ontological criterion you apply.

That is why I thought @claudiu might be interested in this chapter both in relation to quasiparticles and in relation to that discussion: because it presents different criteria by which we judge if something exists, which is basically what was NOT discussed in that post (and what I did’nt want to bring up due to lack of motivation/interest -this kind of philosophical works shows how many words and effort it takes to talk seriously/profoundly about certain topics-).

In “Abstract and concrete”, W. W. Sawer (a mathematician who was also in my opinion one of the best teachers and divulgators of mathematics) says:

A [math] teacher’s continually trying to bring the subject down to earth, to make it intuitive. A mathematician’s continually trying to purify the subject, to make it abstract. A good mathematician feels that teachers continually distort the subject, and a good teacher feels that mathematicians continually obscure the subject.

To teach mathematics successfully, we have te be aware both of the intuitive and the abstract aspects of mathematics, and somehow to unify these.

Why we have to emphasise abstract? The answer’s simple. If we didn’t emphasise abstraction people would think that mathematics dealt with actual objects in much the same way that physics does. But, in fact, mathematical questions, as a rule, can’t be settled by direct appeal to experiment. Te use a hackneyed example, Euclid’s lines are supposed to have no width, and his points no size. No such ebjects can be found in the physical world.

Euclid’s geometry describes an imaginary world which resembles the actual world sufficiently for it to be a useful study for surveyors, carpenters and engineers".

So “abstract” and “concrete” are other criteria that can be used (and have been used) to determine the existence status of something. To complicate matters, as with quasiparticles, virtual particles or Pegasus, the ontological existence of something could constitute a continuum (depending on the criteria adopted).

I remind you that the exposition of your view arose from your objection with respect to this statement:

Richard has repeatedly stated that feelings (and the self) are not facts i.e. they don’t actually exist.

The problem is that Richard, @claudiu and you (and so many others, as the article shows) can use different ontological criteria to determine the existence of something (in that case, feelings).This is also applicable to terms such as “facts”.

But as it was remembered in that post that Richard clarified that

my writing is not intended to stand literary scrutiny for scholarly style and form and content and so on –the academics would have a field-day with it–

the important thing from my point of view was not so much to repeat your position that everything exists (one of many ontological positions held in history), but to start from the question of what Richard wants to convey in general about the nature of feelings to help people to be actually free (even if philosophically or physically he were wrong from an academic point of view, and even if he is inaccurate or contradictory with respect to his own writings about the ontological status of feelings and other entities -as you showed that he is-).

That is why I mentioned the connection I see between this article and that post: because maybe it can contribute something to @claudiu (now to you) in that discussion.


Just for the record, I don’t think Richard is either inaccurate or contradictory with respect to these topics. I think that, taken out of context, it can appear so (which is what @rick demonstrated), but, in context, he presents a unified, logically self-consistent, and evidentially pragmatically useful (based on success of people becoming free) approach, not to mention a factual one (whose facticity we have debated for many thousands of words and isn’t worth repeating now).

But indeed the writing itself does not stand literary scrutiny. But as he is describing and reporting factually accurate things, the facts can stand for themselves, and the writing doesn’t have to stand literary scrutiny - at least not for these first sets of pioneers that we are.

Again, its actual existence or not has to do with labels, definitions, conceptualizations and ontological positions about existence itself (you tacitly assume a definition and ontological position about it every time you use the word -even if you are not aware of which-).

As someone in Reddit said, “In quantum field theory, existence is a slippery term”. I’d say that it’s slippery for all branches of science. That’s why science -physics in particular- leaves this discussion to philosophy or metaphysics. As the same Reddit writer say, “physicists are often much more concerned with what are empirically observable than what’s real” (actual, in our terms).

Athough “often” it is not “always”, as evidenced by the video, Faulkenburg, Gelfert, Hacking or this well-known Hobson’s article for whom particles do not exist:

“There are no particles, there are only fields”: https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1204/1204.4616.pdf

A position that, of course, was also challenged by others, as Sciamada in his letter (to which Hobson responds in turn right there):

“There are no particles, and there are no fields”

Others have criticized Hobson from different (but TACITS) ontological and epistemological positions, saying things like if particles do not have true existence because they are “epiphenomena arising from fields” (even if you can measure them, perceive its causes and effects, etc.), maybe a dog can be denied existence if it is conceived “only” as an epiphenomenon of other phenomena that would be the actual ones (be particles, fields, or whatever).

However, as I said, almost all of them tend to elegantly avoid clarifying what definition of “existence” they adopt, from what ontological position they speak.

But some critics do not, such as Sassoli de Bianchi, who in “Quantum fields are not fields” /https://arxiv.org/pdf/1204.6384.pdf) makes clear that to criticize Hobson he adopts “the reality criterion formulated by Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen, and further refined by Piron and Aerts”.

This epistemological attitude is, for me, the one to adopt in order to have a more fruitful discussion about the existence of things, what can be considered actual and what not, etc.

I admit I haven’t read most of this thread but I thought it might be useful to contribute something:

Richard told me while I was in Ballina, that when he was in school in the 60s, the atom-model of matter was taught in schools as a MODEL ONLY and not as fact. And he told me that basically out of intellectual laziness, or the game of telephone that communication over time consists of, people seem to have forgotten this, and at this stage ‘the atom’ and all the particles they talk about are taught / spoken about as facts, rather than as a useful model and only a useful model.


@henryyyyyyyyyy That’s the entirety of my view of Richard’s stance. It’s a stance I have adopted almost 100%. The one caveat I put forth is just because something is a model and only a model doesn’t mean it won’t eventually be adequately observed to be totally accepted as real. I guess what these guys @Miguel and @claudiu are pointing to is the criteria of “adequately observed”. And evidently some people are saying we are already there and others are saying not so fast. Way beyond my intellectual capacity and not yet necessary to have any opinion on.

I also think science education both in schools and in the mainstream press would be better served if the model aspect of these things was emphasized. It would help people get comfortable with ambiguity, which I find most people struggle with.


Not so… actual existence has absolutely zero to do with anything any humans might think, say, feel, or do. Actual existence is that which exists independently, not relying on anything else, even if all humans were to perish (which we eventually will as a species). No conversation or exchange two humans have can possibly alter or change or affect what is actual and what is not. It exists on its own.

This is not a theory, belief, opinion, viewpoint, definition, conceptualization, position, philosophy, metaphysics, worldview or narrative – it is what is factually the case. And you don’t have to take my word for it, as the fact of there being an actually existing world, can be readily ascertained in a PCE.

Now, what it is that actually exists and is happening, at very small or very large scales, might be difficult to ascertain… it took some time for humanity to ascertain that the Earth actually orbits around the Sun, as opposed to the Sun being that which orbits around the Earth, for example. But even while humans were conceptualizing the Sun as orbiting around the Earth, of course the Earth was still the one orbiting around the Sun.

For the purposes of empiric observation, and making predictions, it indeed doesn’t matter whether the equations describe something that actually exists or not… all that matters is if they can be successfully used to make predictions, build systems relying on the phenomenon (such as microchips and lasers), etc. And to this end, quantum physics has no doubt been wildly successful.

But this doesn’t mean existence is a slippery term… existence is a very simple and straightforward thing (see above). It is just that it might be difficult to figure out what it is that exists. But this doesn’t make existence itself a slippery thing.

To bring it into the forum here (and I suggest that it’s always good to quote the relevant text, in case links go dead etc., for posterity), this attitude is:

Now, according to the reality criterion formulated by
Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen [2], and further refined by
Piron and Aerts [3–5], the notion of actual existence is
intimately related to the notion of predictability, in the
sense that a property can be said to be actual, for a given
physical entity, if and only if should one decide to observe
it (i.e., to test it), the success of the observation would
be in principle predictable in advance, with certainty.

This is basically re-defining existence to mean “empirically observable and predictable”. But if no humans were alive, surely what actually exists, would remain exactly the same, even though no observations would be possible.

This also has the flaw that what actually exists will change over time as science progresses and its ability to make predictions improves, which is nonsensical.

Indeed, though I’m pleased that, having read a lot of the information posted here, and related links, it appears the debate in scientific circles is not settled, about what is real and what isn’t. When I first read Richard writing this I thought it was heresy and almost an insane and counter-scientific thing to say. Which goes to show just how this idea has pervaded the mainstream. Yet going to the source (scientists themselves), it is indeed an ongoing debate.

Robert J. Sciamanda really hit the nail on the head in “There are no particles, and there are no fields”:


(for context, QFT = Quantum Field Theory).

And for some more definitions:

That is, the fields of Quantum Field Theory, are simply mathematical constructs, i.e. not actually existing things. Therefore:


Art Hobson entirely misses the point of this argument when he rebuts with:


The very reason to regard them as less real than rocks - that they are mathematical operators - is completely unadressed and their reality is simply re-iterated by stating that “rocks are made of them”.

To drive the point home, that it is a model and not an actuality, all of the following interpretations make the same predictions:

  • There are no particles - what appears to be a particle is just a localized field interaction.
  • There are no fields - a field is just the collective effect of particles (such as electrons) interacting via force-carriers (such as photons).
  • There are no particles - a particle is a probability wave whose amplitude determines the probability of observing that particle in that location, but the particle itself has no location.
  • All possible localizations of a particle all actually happen in parallel universes.
  • Particles exist and have definite location and space, but they follow a ‘pilot wave’ which affects their movement
  • etc…

As the math works out the same with all of these, it should be self-evident that just because a mathematical model is predictive, does not mean that it describes actual, objective, existence.

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I know

So you interpreted that with “Again, its actual existence or not has to do with labels […]” I was referring to its actual and objective existence, and not that I was referring to “its actual existence for you […]”… Even when immediately after I said that "you tacitly assume a definition and ontological position about it every time you use the word -even if you are not aware of which-)… Even when you started the topic with “For me this points to […]”…

My intervention was aimed at providing elements in relation to your condition of feeling being judging whether something exists or not, judging whether it’s actual or not (that’s why I alluded to the discussion with @rick, ontology and epistemology).

Seeing some of your later comments/interpretations about what I wrote (poorly, probably), I prefer to drop the ball here, knowing it’s very likely that it will have no other destiny than that of a growing and for me undesirable snowball :slightly_smiling_face:

Sure - but I did appreciate the links you provided and enjoyed reading them as I understand the topic of quantum mechanics and the debate surrounding the existence of the particles and fields etc., much more thoroughly now.

I would only add that it doesn’t matter whether I think something actually exists… I’m not so interested in whether something actually exists “for me”. There is no existence for me or for you etc, it’s just existence.

This may be a rare case where we say the same thing but language gets in the way. But to me to talk about ontology and epistemology etc is to miss the mark and to muddy the simplicity of the matter and to diverge to the realm of philosophy, whereas the realm I’m interested in is the experiential one, and what can be put together from experience. We can argue or debate philosophy but we can’t argue or debate experiential matters :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

To add to it, when you say:

Again, its actual existence or not has to do with labels, definitions, conceptualizations and ontological positions about existence itself (you tacitly assume a definition and ontological position about it every time you use the word -even if you are not aware of which-).

What I’m getting at is I don’t think this is true even for whether I think something actually exists. To reason or conceptualize existence (as in whether something exists, or the nature of existence) is to be missing the point that it’s an experiential matter, not a cognitive one. There is no definition or ontological position to be had, either - it’s again an experiential matter which can maybe best be described as “what exists is that which exists”. This has zero value logically as it’s a tautology, but it may help to convey the experiential nature of it.

To expand a little more on it — after I visited Richard and Vineeto the first time, but before I had my first PCE, I had a hint that there is an actual world that actually exists. I could experience things that indicated there was an actual world - like pure intent. But I didn’t know for sure.

When I had my first PCE, that is the first time that I (as actual flesh and blood Claudiu) knew that I actually exist. I knew it for a fact, that this flesh and blood body exists – and that this world, this universe, and the trees and the birds and the squirrels and cars, actually exist as well.

It is this type or quality of existence that I am interested in.


Hi Claudiu - starting from your description that “what exists is that which exists”, and keeping the subject at hand based firmly on experience, would you agree that it is impossible to experience that which does not exist for the simple and obvious reason that that which does not exist does not exist to be experienced?

Well, I will drop the ball here then…

These quotes are only part of the contradictory mix I noticed in your discussion with @rick on the subject about the existence and actuality of feelings (and all that it led to), and now here.

In spite of all what you said in these two last posts, this very topic evidences your interest to ponder and rationalize, “wrap your head around”, and understand as a feeling being the existence or not, the actuality or not, of quasiparticles, particles, etc. And even when this are not experiential matters, just cognitive ones. Whether for feeling beings or free persons:

It’s not that I think these contradictions are a big problem, because you are a feeling beeing and it is to be expected. But it can be a problem if you do not notice them, and if they originate, as it often seems, in defending preconceived ideas regardless of what the other person says, in “knowing beforehand” that you can’t get anything from the other person if they have views contrary to yours, in not observing what is happening to you emotionally and experientially at that moment (which is what we are supposedly here to do, in addition to clarifying concepts); as if you were only meant to give to others and unwilling to receive (as evidenced by the last two posts you had to add despite what I wrote about why I preferred not to follow based on your interpretations, etc).

Maybe that explains why you often respond so quickly and profusely, even sometimes with a gish gallop technique, a modality that seems unhelpful.

Maybe all this will help you to observe something useful about your self.

It certainly helped me to observe myself. Thanks