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Of Crows and Quarks: Reflections on the Laws of Quantum Mechanics

  • Adrian Heathcote
Chapter
Part of the Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 12)

Abstract

To the metaphysician the puzzle about laws of nature arises from their apparent modal nature, their ability to sustain counterfactual assertions. The various theories about natural laws differ in the degree to which they respect that intuition about modality and in how they try to accommodate it. At some point however, and preferably sooner rather than later, such metaphysical theories must interact with our theories about the world, our science. A metaphysics that does not dovetail with our best science is surely too much meta and not enough physics.

Keywords

Wave Packet Hide Variable Classical Physic Inductive Inference Bell Inequality 
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.
    A.J. Ayer, ‘What Is a Law of Nature’. Reprinted in Philosophical Problems of Causation (ed.) Tom L. Beauchamp, Encino, Dickenson, 1974. Ayer uses the term ‘conventional’ where I have used the term’subjective’.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    D. Lewis, Counter/actuals, Cambridge, Mass. 1973.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For the Principal Principle see ‘A Subjectivist’s Guide to Objective Chance’. Reprinted in Lewis’ Philosophical Papers II, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1986. Strictly, given the evidence or lack thereof, you may have a range of degrees of belief about the bias of the coin.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    D. Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Oxford, OUP, 3rd ed. p.35.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    D.M. Armstrong, What is a Law of Nature, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983. pp. 52–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    I have other objections to the Armstrong — Dretske — Tooley view besides those addressed here. For one I think that the view fails the counterfactual test that was mentioned in the opening paragraph — I think only some kind of essentialist theory can meet such a requirement. For another, I think that unless something more is said about the necessitation relation than is usually said, the view will collapse into the Humean regularity account. These arguments will be developed elsewhere.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    To save any possible confusion, it should be made clear that by ‘Quantum Mechanics’ is meant the standard theory in its usual mathematical presentation. Thus, for me, the many-worlds interpretation, for example — because of its significant mathematical deviations — counts as a different theory rather than an ‘interpretation’ of the standard one.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    I will assume that the reader is familiar with the elementary ‘picture’ of quantum theory, as it is found in the usual text book accounts. Useful background material is contained in R. I. G. Hughes’ The Structure and Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1989. For a briefer introduction the reader might also consider my critical notice of R. I. G. Hughes book which emphasizes those elements of the theory that are important here (The Australasian Journal of Philosophy June, 1994).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    The correct statement can be found in E. Beltrametti and G. Cassinelli, The Logic of Quantum Mechanics (Reading, Mass. Addison Wesley, 1981) pp. 26–8.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For more on these domain restrictions see my ‘Unbounded Operators and the Incompleteness of Quantum Mechanics’, Philosophy of Science, 57, 3, 1990, pp.523–34.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    For the Paley-Wiener theorem see M. Reed and B. Simon, Methods of Modern Mathematical Physics Vol I: Functional Analysis, New York, Academic Press, 1980, p. 333.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    For an account of the Kochen-Specker theorem see Hughes, op. cit., pp. 164–8.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Some may object to the term ‘particle’ here — on the ground that particle-like behavior is itself a result of the measurements that we make. I see no reason to be that scrupulous: ‘particle’ is a perfectly good term to apply to quantum entities — a judgement that, at any rate, has already been made for us by most working quantum field theorists.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Of course by saying that we should not ‘believe in consciousness’ I mean only that we should not believe in consciousness as an irreducble, non-physical entity, capable of acting on physical systems from the outside, as it were: we should certainly continue to believe in consciousness as a psychological phenomenon.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    P. H. Eberhard, ‘Bell’s Theorem without Hidden Variables’, Il Nuovo Cimento 38 B, 1977, pp.75–9;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 15a.
    N. Herbert and J. Karush, ‘Generalization of Bell’s Theorem’, Foundations of Physics 8, 1978,pp.313–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 16.
    D. Lewis, Philosophical Papers Vol. II, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 182.Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    Bas C. Van Fraassen, Quantum Mechanics: An Empiricist View, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991,pp.l22–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrian Heathcote
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of SydneyAustralia

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