This question was closed on physics exchange. Can anyone help me with this question here? As I understand it, everything evolves, which means that everything changes based on causes and conditions. So to the contrary, are fundamental particals and the "quantum" of Quantum mechanics constant, unchanging and have always existed?

  • Why was it closed on physics exchange, what part was away from physics? Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 17:49
  • Quantum particles move around, their wave functions evolve and some of their internal parameters can change (spin direction). They can even be created or annihilated in collisions. They also have internal parameters that never change (mass and charges).
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 20:49
  • Particles are understood to be quanta of quantum field theories. But quantum field theories, especially those of electrons, are thought to be so-called "effective theories," i.e. they make good predictions away from singularities due to high/low energy, but may have little to do with what actually is. The principled physicist can usually only speak to what mathematical formalism makes good predictions and must remain agnostic about (or at least aloof about) the metaphysics of his formalism. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 1:46
  • @Charles Hudgins, sure but here in philosophy se we are interested in the ontological part too. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 8:43
  • @IoannisPaizis As you should be. My point was just that one shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that the standard model speaks to ontology. The consensus, I'm fairly sure, is that the standard model is an effective theory. To be clear, this is not always the consensus in physics. For example, the theory that electricity is the flow of electrons was not, in its time, considered an effective theory. It was thought that there really were these discrete entities called electrons that transported something called electric charge. Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 15:02

2 Answers 2


They are fundamental and their inherent properties are unchanging as far as we know. Current estimates suggest the lifetime of an electron is vastly longer than the age of the Universe. Of course, they also have variable properties such as position, energy, etc, which change according to circumstances, and they can be created or annihilated.

  • aren't elementary particles quantum fluctuation in vacuum? Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 17:42
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    and, how can something be eternal if it's properties change? sounds like a theological perspective to me. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 17:46
  • Is this is the explanatory gap between QM and physics? that is bridged by Platonism? Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 17:57
  • @IoannisPaizis Stable particles like electrons are not quantum fluctuations. - The old substance-attribute theory of Aristotle attempts to explain why the substance remains the same, but the attributes change. - As a first guess one may compare an electron to a substance. But a closer look from the viewpoint of quantum field theory refutes that assumption that electrons have an identity as individual particles, i.e. that they exemplify the concept of a substance. Quite unusal and takes some getting used to!
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 18:15
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    @Jo Wehler, Just for reference, in Greek most words include the concept of process, for example: entelechy = "εντελέχεια" = ἐν + τέλος + ἔχω = inside + final + has, and is also female which denotes a "becoming of", so the Greek translation (shortened and quick) = the physical process by which unmorphed matter is transformed from the field of potentiality to the field of physical reality by completing its teleological self realization : el.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/… Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 19:12

I suppose someone will write an explanatory answer in the context of quantum mechanics. Just a quote from Heisenberg.

The atoms or elementary particles themselves are not as real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.

Heisenberg Physics and Philosophy p186.

  • I am onterested to know where Heisenberg makes this statement, in which context? Do you know?
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 18:05
  • Don't know, I had found it in a book I think of Rupert Sheldrake, and now I googled it. Besides the quote, I think that the link is sufficient : en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 18:17
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    @Jo Wehler, not exactly that, but I found this ITS AWESOME, LISTEN ALL : youtu.be/xbpOMkBMtYU?si=mRu_b7DLrTeUpbCL Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 18:55
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    @Jo Wehler, I don't get the word either, but I think that he emphasizes what he said before that language is not enough to describe the ontological implications of QM, so it's left to philosophers to complete the job. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 19:48
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    @Jo Wehler, I found it. Heisenberg Physics and Philosophy (his own book) p186. (archive.org) pdf. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 21:37

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