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Correspondence and Complementarity in Niels Bohr’s Papers: 1925–1927

  • Salvo D’Agostino
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 213)

Abstract

Niels Bohr devoted many of his reflections to epistemological and philosophical matters, though he declared that he did not consider himself a philosopher. The philosophical sides of his work were differently evaluated by scientists and philosophers: highly estimated by scientists (Heisenberg, Rosenfeld, Weizsacker, etc.), severely criticised1 by epistemologists such as Popper, Margenau, Park, etc.

Keywords

Quantum Theory Correspondence Principle Philosophical Matter Mechanical Picture Philosophical Relevance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Popper [1967], Park & Margenau [1968], Park [1968]. A revaluation of Bohr’s philosophy is presented in: Freundlich [1968]; Honner [1982].Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Jammer [1974] 60.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Jammer [1974] 98.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Rudinger [1976–1986], henceforth NBCW [1976–1986].Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Krajewski [1977]. In 1922 Bohr himself affirmed that in his 1913 papers there are the first germs of the Cr Principle(Bohr [1922]. On Bohr’s interpretations of Cr between 1918 and 1925, see: Petruccioli[1988].Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Jammer [1974] 111 note 94, 110.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Born & Pauli, as reported by Jammer [1974] 116.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    NBCW [1984] 273–280; NBCW [1976–1986] Also; Bohr [1935] 845–852.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    “While Einstein’s theory of heat radiation gives support to the postulates, it accentuates the formal nature of the frequency condition” (Bohr NBCW [1984] 275).Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    The contradiction is inherent in the definition of the photon energy hv. It was first presented in: Bohr, Kramers, Slater, [1924] 787, and then stated by Bohr in: Bohr [1925].Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    NBCW [1984] 276.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    NBCW [1984] 276, 277.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    NBCW [1984] 277.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    NBCW [1984] 277. As a matter of fact, in Bohr’s essay, the list of the difficulties precedes in part that of the successes of classical theories. The logic of my presentation has suggested the reversal; however, this change does not introduce any element of unfaithfulness to Bohr’s ideas.Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    (Bohr to Pauli 25 November 1925, reprinted in: NBCW [1984] 224). The failure of the Bohr-Kramers- Slater theory of virtual oscllators is, of course, a turning point in the development of the meaning of Cr. A useful factual account of the Bohr-Kramers-Slater theory and the so-called Kramers-Heisenberg dispersion formula is presented by Tagliaferri [1985] 334 ff..Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    NBCW [1984] 277.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    NBCW [1984] 276, ff..Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    NBCW [1984] 280. The long quotation is justified by the meaning I attribute to the restriction as a first step, which will be generalised in the limitation of Cm. See: Holton [1973] 130.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    Heisenberg [1925].Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    However it should be remarked that, as a matter of fact Heisenberg’s mathematical scheme for constructing the new QT was not limited to frequencies and amplitudes, but it included the Heisenberg-Born derivation rule as well as the matrix substitution for spacial coordinates.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    NBCW [1984] 280.Google Scholar
  22. 27.
    NBCW [1984] 276.Google Scholar
  23. 28.
    I have found no explicit mention in the consulted literatureof my thesis that the new meaning of Bohr’s Cr in 1925 was influenced by Heisenberg’s 1925 paper.Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    Kalchar, Introduction, in: NBCW [1985] 21.Google Scholar
  25. 30.
    NBCW [1985]; Bohr [1926–1932] 91–99. Also: Archive for History of Quantum Physics (AHQP), microfilm, no 36.Google Scholar
  26. 31.
    Heisenberg [1927].Google Scholar
  27. 32.
    NBCW [1985] 91.Google Scholar
  28. 33.
    The “indispensability” had however been proposed as early as 1922: “Every description of natural processes must be based on ideas which have been introduced and defined by the classical theory” (my underlining). N. Bohr, “On the Quantum Theory of Line Spectra”, Zeitung für PhyslK, 9, 1922, 1; my italics).CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  29. 34.
    Concerning the interpretation of Bohr’s conception of theory as a symbolic expression, consult: Chevalley [1993].Google Scholar
  30. 35.
    Bohr, “Atomic Theory and mechanics”, in: NBCW [1984] 276 ff.Google Scholar
  31. 36.
    These ideas are presented in: Bohr [1958]. See also: Honner [1982].Google Scholar
  32. 37.
    Kalckar, Introduction, NBCW [1985] 26–27. Notice that in this passage Cm concerns the antinomy [superposition principle/conservation principle]. In this form it remains closer to the wave-particle antinomy of electrodynamics and to the Boh-Kramers-Slater interpretation of optical dispersion.Google Scholar
  33. 38.
    NBCW [1985] 92.Google Scholar
  34. 39.
    Jammer [1974] 93, 65.Google Scholar
  35. 40.
    See: Archive for History of Quantum Physics [1963], interview with Heisenberg, 25 February 1963.Google Scholar
  36. 41.
    “These reciprocal uncertainty relations were given in a recent paper by Heisenberg [Zeit. für Phys., 49, 1927, 172–198] as the expression of the statistical element which, due to the feature of discontinuity implied in the quantum postulate, characterises any interpretation of observation by means of classical concepts” (NBCW [1985] 93, my italics). Bohr refers to discontinuity (the quantum finite-ness) as something characterising Heisenberg’s approach to IR, not his (Bohr’s) own approach, which, I have shown, is based on the link which the quantum of action establishes between ondulatory and particulate features. The point of the difference is taken up again by Bohr some lines later, when he discusses the “gradual spreading of the wave fields” (NBCW [1985] 94), and “the statistical character of the quantum theoretical description” (NBCW [1985] 98).CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  37. 42.
    Bohr, “The Quantum Postulate and the recent Development of Atomic Theory”, Nature, Supplement [14 April 1928], 580–590; reprinted in NBCW [1985] 147Google Scholar
  38. 43.
    NBCW [1985] 151. For Bohr’s and Heisenberg’s views of the X -ray microscope, see the interesting paper in: Kalckar [1985] 16 ff.Google Scholar
  39. 44.
    Bohr, “The Quantum Postulaten”, NBCW [1985] 151.Google Scholar
  40. 45.
    NBCW [1985].Google Scholar
  41. 46.
    Bohr’s concern about his Cm also involved the visualisation problem (an aspect of his problem with ST description). This aspect has been rightly emphasised by Hendry [1984], by Miller & Hendry [1984], and by Miller [1984].Google Scholar
  42. 47.
    According to Jammer, this type of criticism of Heisenberg’s interpretation seems to have been raised explicitly for the first time by Ch.R. von Liechtenstern in 1954. However, I think that it amounts to the same type of argument presented by Popper in 1934 (Jammer [1974] 345).Google Scholar
  43. 48.
    Jammer [1974] 73.Google Scholar
  44. 49.
    “There seems to me a fairly obvious connection between Bohr’s ‘principle of complementarity’ and this metaphysical view of an unknowable reality [i.e. Heisenberg’s interpretation of the uncertainty Relations] a view that suggests the ‘renunciation’ (to use a favourite term of Bohr’s) of our aspiration to knowledge, and the restriction of our physical studies to appearances and their interrelations”; (Popper, “Quantum Mechanics without the observer”in: Bunge [1967] 7–44; Also: Popper [1968] 454).Google Scholar
  45. 50.
    Popper[1967].Google Scholar
  46. 52.
    Hans Reichenbach was in 1929 one of the first to stress this genuine aspect of Bohr’s ontology. He emphasised that the source for Bohr’s Cm is primarily the structure of the theory presented by QT and not the interpretation of IR as disturbance to an otherwise undisturbed ST description. (H. Reichenbach, “Wiele und Wege der physikalischen Erkentniss”, Handbuch der Physik, Vol. 4, ed. H. Seiger and K. Schee, Springer, Berlin 1929, 78; reported by Jammer, [1974] 160). This view is also more generally confirmed by such an acute epistemologist as Eino Kaila (Kaila [1950]). The fact that quantisation can be explained without referring to quantum was shown, of course, by Schrodinger’s wave-theory (see my following chapter).Google Scholar
  47. 53.
    Jammer [1966] 117. The “inclusion” view, Cr(l), was not, at any rate that of Bohr, at least, after 1924, point proved by Bohr’s 1924 statement quoted by Jammer Jammer [1966] 118). Perhaps Cr(l) had this function in the early stages of the “logic of discovery” of QT.Google Scholar
  48. 54.
    Jammer [1966] 88.Google Scholar
  49. 55.
    Tagliaferri [1985] 240.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Salvo D’Agostino
    • 1
  1. 1.Università “La Sapienza”RomaItaly

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