Journal Article

Discussion. Losing your marbles in wavefunction collapse theories

R Clifton and B Monton

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 50, issue 4, pages 697-717
Published in print December 1999 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 1999 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/50.4.697
Discussion. Losing your marbles in wavefunction collapse theories

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Peter Lewis ([1997]) has recently argued that the wavefunction collapse theory of GRW (Chirardi, Rimini and Weber [1986]) can only solve the problem of wavefunction tails at the expense of predicting that arithmetic does not apply to ordinary macroscopic objects. More specifically, Lewis argues that the GRW theory must violate the enumeration principle: that 'if marble 1 is in the box and marble 2 is in the box and so on through marble n, then all n marbles are in the box' ([1997], p. 321). Ghirardi and Bassi ([1999]) have replied that it is meaningless to say that the enumeration principle is violated because the wavefunction Lewis uses to exhibit the violation cannot persist, according to the GRW theory, for more than a split second ([1999], p. 709). On the contrary, we argue that Lewis's argument survives Ghirardi and Bassi's criticism unscathed. We then go on to show that, while the enumeration principle can fail in the GRW theory, the theory itself guarantees that the principle can never be empirically falsified, leaving the applicability of arithmetical reasoning to both micro- and macroscopic objects intact.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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