The Extension of Quantum Holism and the Philosophy of Mind

  • Michael Esfeld
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 298)


Is quantum holism limited to more or less the microphysical realm? Or does it touch upon all physical systems? The issue of the scope of quantum holism is linked with the measurement problem [9.1]. When it comes to this issue, we should take the philosophy of mind into account — and in particular the discussion on holism and a revision of Cartesianism in today’s philosophy of mind. All those interpretations that regard quantum holism as universal in the physical realm are committed to epistemic self-sufficiency of intentional states and a representational realism. Consequently, they are incompatible with the revision of Cartesianism that goes with the proposed social holism and holism about beliefs [9.2]. By contrast, if one countenances a transition to a level of macroscopic systems which are not touched by entanglement, one can still regard quantum physics as a universal physical theory. But one can accommodate a macroscopic realm with definite properties. This is a prerequisite for direct realism and externalism (including social holism) in the philosophy of mind. The moral of this chapter therefore is a plea for caution: The arguments for holism and a revision of Cartesianism in the philosophy of mind sharpen up the task for the interpretation of quantum theory, and they constitute a weighty reason against the option for universal quantum holism. There is hence not one comprehensive, substantial holism that includes both the philosophy of physics and the philosophy of mind and that leads to a revision of the Cartesian tradition in modern thought [9.3].


Quantum Theory Belief State Perceptual Belief Direct Realism High Level Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Esfeld
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of KonstanzGermany
  2. 2.University of HertfordshireEngland

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