Journal Article

Quantum Mechanics on Spacetime I: Spacetime State Realism

David Wallace and Christopher G. Timpson

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 61, issue 4, pages 697-727
Published in print December 2010 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online November 2010 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axq010
Quantum Mechanics on Spacetime I: Spacetime State Realism

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What ontology does realism about the quantum state suggest? The main extant view in contemporary philosophy of physics is wave-function realism. We elaborate the sense in which wave-function realism does provide an ontological picture, and defend it from certain objections that have been raised against it. However, there are good reasons to be dissatisfied with wave-function realism, as we go on to elaborate. This motivates the development of an opposing picture: what we call spacetime state realism, a view which takes the states associated to spacetime regions as fundamental. This approach enjoys a number of beneficial features, although, unlike wave-function realism, it involves non-separability at the level of fundamental ontology. We investigate the pros and cons of this non-separability, arguing that it is a quite acceptable feature, even one which proves fruitful in the context of relativistic covariance. A companion paper discusses the prospects for combining a spacetime-based ontology with separability, along lines suggested by Deutsch and Hayden.

1 Introduction

2 Prolegomena

3 Wave-function Realism

4 Problems with Wave-function Realism

5 Spacetime State Realism

6 Locality

7 Non-unitary Dynamics on the Spacetime Ontology

8 Relativity and Poincaré Covariance

9 Finding the Appearances

10 Conclusion

Journal Article.  12189 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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