Passion at a Distance

  • Don HowardEmail author
Part of the The Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 73)

In 1984, Abner Shimony invented the expression, “passion at a distance,” to characterize the distinctive relationship of two entangled quantum mechanical systems [1]. It is neither the local causality of pushes, pulls, and central forces familiar from classical mechanics and electrodynamics, nor the non-local causality of instantaneous or just superluminal action at a distance that would spell trouble for relativity theory. This mode of connection of entangled systems has them feeling one another's presence and properties enough to ensure the strong correlations revealed in the Bell experiments, correlations that undergird everything from superfluidity and superconductivity to quantum computing and quantum teleportation, but not in a way that permits direct control of one by manipulation of the other. Intended to echo Aristotle's distinguishing of “potentiality” from “actuality” as different senses of “being,” Shimony's “passion at a distance” is all about tendency and propensity, not the concreteness whose misplacement in realm of the physical was lamented by Alfred North Whitehead.

No metaphor is better suited, however, to describe as well the feelings of Abner's students, colleagues, and friends for his presence in their lives and for the character that he brings to his own work, to his work with others, and to the world whose betterment has been his abiding aim. However great the distances later grow, world lines once intersecting Abner's remain forever entangled with his in this passionate way. Here are lives and careers with outcomes that will never again be independent, however much the outward parameters might differ and change.


Bell Inequality Evolutionary Epistemology Naturalistic Epistemology Epistemic Probability Bell Experiment 
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  1. 1.
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    Ashtekar, A.; Cohen, R.S.; Howard, D.; Renn, J.; Sarkar, S.; and Shimony, A. (2003). Revisiting the Foundations of Relativistic Physics: Festschrift in Honor of John Stachel (Dordrecht: Kluwer).Google Scholar
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    See Abner's forthcoming edition, with an introduction, of Annemarie's Iroquois Portraits (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press).Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, and Program in History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of Notre DameNotre Dame

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