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Wigner on Foundations of Quantum Mechanics

  • Abner Shimony
Chapter
Part of the The Scientific Papers book series (WIGNER, volume A / 3)

Abstract

Because of the breadth of Eugene Wigner’s work on the foundations of quantum mechanics, there is no sharp line between the subject matter of the present set of papers and that of several other sets, especially the papers on Particles and Fields, those on Mathematics, and the Popular Philosophical Papers. This remark about domains is also intended to warn the reader about the character of the papers on foundations of quantum mechanics, particularly of the pervasiveness of subtleties that have often been missed. On the one hand, Wigner’s reflections on the formalism of quantum mechanics led him to pose a number of sharp questions in theoretical physics — for example, questions of the form, “Is quantity Q measurable by a procedure that satisfies the following constraints?” Usually, when he posed such a question he also provided a mathematical solution. On the other hand, when Wigner assessed various proposals for solving the conceptual difficulties of quantum mechanics, his attitude was usually exploratory, and he seldom claimed definite demonstrations or refutations. His exploratory attitude was responsible for fine differences from one essay to another in evaluating the adequacy and the promise of a specific proposal. In general, it is dangerous to label a thesis as “Wigner’s position” or “Wigner’s philosophy”. It is safer and wiser to pay close attention to his judicious balance of considerations.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1997

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  • Abner Shimony

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