Journal Article

A Philosopher Looks at Quantum Mechanics (Again)<sup>*</sup>

Hilary Putnam

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 56, issue 4, pages 615-634
Published in print December 2005 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 2005 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axi135
A Philosopher Looks at Quantum Mechanics (Again)*

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‘A Philosopher Looks at Quantum Mechanics’ (Putnam [1965]) explained why the interpretation of quantum mechanics is a philosophical problem in detail, but with only the necessary minimum of technicalities, in the hope of making the difficulties intelligible to as wide an audience as possible. When I wrote it, I had not seen Bell ([1964]), nor (of course) had I seen Ghirardi et al. ([1986]). And I did not discuss the ‘Many Worlds’ interpretation. For all these reasons, I have decided to make a similar attempt forty years later, taking account of additional interpretations and of our knowledge concerning non-locality. (The Quantum Logical interpretation proposed in Putnam [1968] is not considered in the present paper, however, because Putnam [1994b] concluded that it was unworkable.) Rather than advocate a particular interpretation, this paper classifies the possible kinds of interpretation, subject only to the constraints of a very broadly construed scientific realism. Section 7 does, however, argue that two sorts of interpretation—ones according to which a ‘collapse’ is brought about by the measurement (e.g. the traditional ‘Copenhagen’ interpretation), and the Many Worlds interpretation or interpretations—should be ruled out. The concluding section suggests some possible morals of a cosmological character.

Background

Scientific realism is the premise of my discussion

What ‘quantum mechanics’ says—and some problems

Other interpretations of quantum mechanics

The problem of Einstein's bed

Classification of the possible kinds of interpretation

Which interpretations I think we can rule out

The ‘moral’ of this discussion

Journal Article.  8882 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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