Foundations of Physics

, Volume 47, Issue 8, pp 1115–1154 | Cite as

On the Character of Quantum Law: Complementarity, Entanglement, and Information

  • Arkady PlotnitskyEmail author


This article considers the relationships between the character of physical law in quantum theory and Bohr’s concept of complementarity, under the assumption of the unrepresentable and possibly inconceivable nature of quantum objects and processes, an assumption that may be seen as the most radical departure from realism currently available. Complementarity, the article argues, is a reflection of the fact that, as against classical physics or relativity, the behavior of quantum objects of the same type, say, all electrons, is not governed by the same physical law in all contexts, specifically in complementary contexts. On the other hand, the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics offers correct probabilistic or statistical predictions (no other predictions are possible on experimental grounds) in all contexts, here, again, under the assumption that quantum objects themselves and their behavior are beyond representation or even conception. Bohr, in this connection, spoke of “an entirely new situation as regards the description of physical phenomena that, the notion of complementarity aims at characterizing.” The article also considers the relationships among complementarity, entanglement, and quantum information, by basing these relationships on this understanding of complementarity.


Complementarity Entanglement Measuring instruments Quantum information Reality 



I would like to thank Mauro D’Ariano, Jan Faye, Henry Folse, Laurent Freidel, Lucien Hardy, Gregg Jaeger, Andrei Khrennikov, and Paolo Perinotti for invaluable discussions concerning the subjects addressed in this article. I am also grateful to both anonymous readers of the article for helpful comments and suggestions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Theory and Cultural Studies ProgramPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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