Journal Article

Relational Quantum Mechanics and the Determinacy Problem

Matthew J. Brown

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 60, issue 4, pages 679-695
Published in print December 2009 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online May 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Relational Quantum Mechanics and the Determinacy Problem

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Carlo Rovelli's relational interpretation of quantum mechanics holds that a system's states or the values of its physical quantities as normally conceived only exist relative to a cut between a system and an observer or measuring instrument. Furthermore, on Rovelli's account, the appearance of determinate observations from pure quantum superpositions happens only relative to the interaction of the system and observer. Jeffrey Barrett ([1999]) has pointed out that certain relational interpretations suffer from what we might call the ‘determinacy problem', but Barrett misclassifies Rovelli's interpretation by lumping it in with Mermin's view, as Rovelli's view is quite different and has resources to escape the particular criticisms that Barrett makes of Mermin's view. Rovelli's interpretation still leaves us with a paradox having to do with the determinacy of measurement outcomes, which can be accepted only if we are willing to give up on certain elements of the ‘absolute’ view of the world.


Relational Quantum Mechanics

Barrett on Relational Interpretations

A Puzzle about Relative States

Canonical Cuts

Is Quantum Consistency Enough?

Journal Article.  7004 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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