Journal Article

Quantum Theory: A Pragmatist Approach

Richard Healey

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 63, issue 4, pages 729-771
Published in print December 2012 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 2012 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Quantum Theory: A Pragmatist Approach

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While its applications have made quantum theory arguably the most successful theory in physics, its interpretation continues to be the subject of lively debate within the community of physicists and philosophers concerned with conceptual foundations. This situation poses a problem for a pragmatist for whom meaning derives from use. While disputes about how to use quantum theory have arisen from time to time, they have typically been quickly resolved, and consensus reached, within the relevant scientific sub-community. Yet, rival accounts of the meaning of quantum theory continue to proliferate.1 In this article, I offer a diagnosis of this situation and outline a pragmatist solution to the problem it poses, leaving further details for subsequent articles.


2The Objectivity of Quantum Probabilities

  2.1Quantum probabilities are objective

  2.2Quantum probabilities do not represent physical reality

3How Quantum Theory Limits Description of Physical Reality

4The Relational Nature of Quantum States

  4.1Rovelli's relationism

  4.2Quantum Bayesian relationism

  4.3Reference-frame relationism

  4.4Agent-situation relationism and wave-collapse

  4.5Why quantum probabilities are not Lewisian chances

5The Objectivity of Physical Description in Quantum Theory

  5.1Why violations of Bell inequalities involve no physical non-locality

  5.2Objectivity, inter-subjectivity, and Wigner's friend


Journal Article.  18350 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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