Causation in Quantum Mechanics

Richard Healey

in The Oxford Handbook of Causation

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199279739
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191577246 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Causation in Quantum Mechanics

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There is widespread agreement that quantum mechanics has something radical to teach us about causation. But opinions differ on what this is. Physicists have often taken the central lesson to be that many physical events occur spontaneously, so that a principle of causality is violated whenever an atom emits light, or a uranium nucleus decays, even though nothing that happened beforehand made this inevitable. Feynman urged philosophers to acknowledge that this implication of quantum mechanics undermines the view that causal determinism forms a precondition of scientific inquiry. But while some physicists have denied the implication, most philosophers since Reichenbach have accepted it with alacrity, and sought to develop accounts of causation equally applicable in an indeterministic or a deterministic world.

Keywords: causation; quantum physics; causal determinism; quantum systems; statistical correlations; free will

Article.  5834 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics ; Philosophy of Science

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