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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 Structureof 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.
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.