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Summary The modal interpretation is a realist interpretation of quantum mechanics where the quantum state is taken to represent the possible values of certain observables. There are a wide variety of different modal interpretations, differing over which observables have determinate values under which conditions.
Key works Fraassen 1979 proposes the original modal interpretation. Dieks & Vermaas 1998 is a valuable anthology. Vermaas 1999 is a thorough study. Dieks 2007 is a recent survey article.
Introductions Lombardi & Dieks forthcoming
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  1. Juan Sebastian Ardenghi, Mario Castagnino & Olimpia Lombardi (2009). Quantum Mechanics: Modal Interpretation and Galilean Transformations. [REVIEW] Foundations of Physics 39 (9):1023-1045.
    The aim of this paper is to consider in what sense the modal-Hamiltonian interpretation of quantum mechanics satisfies the physical constraints imposed by the Galilean group. In particular, we show that the only apparent conflict, which follows from boost-transformations, can be overcome when the definition of quantum systems and subsystems is taken into account. On this basis, we apply the interpretation to different well-known models, in order to obtain concrete examples of the previous conceptual conclusions. Finally, we consider the role (...)
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  2. Frank Arntzenius (1990). Kochen's Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990:241 - 249.
    Kochen has suggested an interpretation of quantum mechanics in which he denies that wavepackets ever collapse, while affirming that measurements have definite results. In this paper I attempt to show that his interpretation is untenable. I then suggest ways in which to construct similar, but more satisfactory, hidden variable interpretations.
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  3. Guido Bacciagaluppi (2000). Delocalized Properties in the Modal Interpretation of a Continuous Model of Decoherence. Foundations of Physics 30 (9):1431-1444.
    I investigate the character of the definite properties defined by the Basic Rule in the Vermaas and Dieks' (1995) version of the modal interpretation of quantum mechanics, specifically for the case of the continuous model of decoherence by Joos and Zeh (1985). While this model suggests that the characteristic length that might be associated with the localisation of an individual system is the coherence length of the state (which converges rapidly to the thermal de Broglie wavelength), I show in an (...)
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  4. Guido Bacciagaluppi & Meir Hemmo (1996). Modal Interpretations, Decoherence and Measurements. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 27 (3):239-277.
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  5. Gyula Bene & Dennis Dieks (2002). A Perspectival Version of the Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics and the Origin of Macroscopic Behavior. Foundations of Physics 32 (5):645-671.
    We study the process of observation (measurement), within the framework of a “perspectival” (“relational,” “relative state”) version of the modal interpretation of quantum mechanics. We show that if we assume certain features of discreteness and determinism in the operation of the measuring device (which could be a part of the observer's nerve system), this gives rise to classical characteristics of the observed properties, in the first place to spatial localization. We investigate to what extent semi-classical behavior of the object system (...)
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  6. Joseph Berkovitz & Meir Hemmo (2005). Modal Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity: A Reconsideration. [REVIEW] Foundations of Physics 35 (3):373-397.
    Two of the main interpretative problems in quantum mechanics are the so-called measurement problem and the question of the compatibility of quantum mechanics with relativity theory. Modal interpretations of quantum mechanics were designed to solve both of these problems. They are no-collapse (typically) indeterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics that supplement the orthodox state description of physical systems by a set of possessed properties that is supposed to be rich enough to account for the classical-like behavior of macroscopic systems, but sufficiently (...)
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  7. Joseph Berkovitz & Meir Hemmo (2005). Can Modal Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics Be Reconciled with Relativity? Philosophy of Science 72 (5):789-801.
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  8. Joseph Berkovitz & Meir Hemmo, How to Reconcile Modal Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics with Relativity.
    Recent no go theorems by Dickson and Clifton (1998), Arntzenius (1998) and Myrvold (2002) demonstrate that current modal interpretations are incompatible with relativity. In this paper we propose strategies for how to circumvent these theorems. We further show how these strategies can be developped into new modal interpretations in which the properties of systems are in general either holistic or relational. We explicitly write down an outline of dynamics for these properties which does not pick out a preferred foliation of (...)
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  9. J. Bub & R. Clifton (1996). A Uniqueness Theorem for 'No Collapse' Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 27 (2):181-219.
    We prove a uniqueness theorem showing that, subject to certain natural constraints, all 'no collapse' interpretations of quantum mechanics can be uniquely characterized and reduced to the choice of a particular preferred observable as determine (definite, sharp). We show how certain versions of the modal interpretation, Bohm's 'causal' interpretation, Bohr's complementarity interpretation, and the orthodox (Dirac-von Neumann) interpretation without the projection postulate can be recovered from the theorem. Bohr's complementarity and Einstein's realism appear as two quite different proposals for selecting (...)
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  10. J. Bub, R. Clifton & S. Goldstein (2000). Revised Proof of the Uniqueness Theorem for 'No Collapse' Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 31 (1):95-98.
    We show that the Bub-Clifton uniqueness theorem (1996) for 'no collapse' interpretations of quantum mechanics can be proved without the 'weak separability' assumption.
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  11. Rob Clifton (1996). The Properties of Modal Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (3):371-398.
    Orthodox quantum mechanics includes the principle that an observable of a system possesses a well-defined value if and only if the presence of that value in the system is certain to be confirmed on measurement. Modal interpretations reject the controversial ‘only if’ half of this principle to secure definite outcomes for quantum measurements that leave the apparatus entangled with the object it has measured. However, using a result that turns on the construction of a Kochen–Specker contradiction, I argue that modal (...)
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  12. Rob Clifton (1995). Independently Motivating the Kochen-Dieks Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (1):33-57.
    The distinguishing feature of ‘modal’ interpretations of quantum mechanics is their abandonment of the orthodox eigenstate–eigenvalue rule, which says that an observable possesses a definite value if and only if the system is in an eigenstate of that observable. Kochen's and Dieks' new biorthogonal decomposition rule for picking out which observables have definite values is designed specifically to overcome the chief problem generated by orthodoxy's rule, the measurement problem, while avoiding the no-hidden-variable theorems. Otherwise, their new rule seems completely ad (...)
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  13. B. D'Espagnat (2001). The Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics - Dennis Dieks and Pieter E. Vermaas (Eds), the Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 1998), VIII+377 Pp., ISBN 0-7923-5207-. [REVIEW] Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 32 (1):121-125.
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  14. Michael Dickson, Modal Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  15. Michael Dickson (1996). Logical Foundations for Modal Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. Philosophy of Science 63 (3):329.
    This paper proposes a logic, motivated by modal interpretations, in which every quantum mechanics propositions has a truth-value. This logic is completely classical, hence violates the conditions of the Kochen-Specker theorem. It is shown how the violation occurs, and it is argued that this violation is a natural and acceptable consequence of modal interpretations. It is shown that despite its classicality, the proposed logic is empirically indistinguishable from quantum logic.
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  16. Michael Dickson (1994). Wavefunction Tails in the Modal Interpretation. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994:366 - 376.
    I review the modal interpretation of quantum mechanics, some versions of which rely on the biorthonormal decomposition of a statevector to determine which properties are physically possessed. Some have suggested that these versions fail in the case of inaccurate measurements, i.e., when one takes tails of the wavefunction into account. I show that these versions of the modal interpretation are satisfactory in such cases. I further suggest that a more general result is possible, namely, that these versions of the modal (...)
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  17. Dennis Dieks (2007). Probability in Modal Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 38 (2):292-310.
    Modal interpretations have the ambition to construe quantum mechanics as an objective, man-independent description of physical reality. Their second leading idea is probabilism: quantum mechanics does not completely fix physical reality but yields probabilities. In working out these ideas an important motif is to stay close to the standard formalism of quantum mechanics and to refrain from introducing new structure by hand. In this paper we explain how this programme can be made concrete. In particular, we show that the Born (...)
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  18. Dennis Dieks & Pieter Vermaas (1998). The Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Kluwer.
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  19. John Earman & Laura Ruetsche (2005). Relativistic Invariance and Modal Interpretations. Philosophy of Science 72 (4):557-583.
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  20. Bas C. Fraassen (1979). Hidden Variables and the Modal Interpretation of Quantum Theory. Synthese 42 (1):155 - 165.
    The modal interpretation of quantum mechanics has two variants: the Copenhagen variant (CV) and the anti-Copenhagen variant (ACV). Healey uses the Bell-Wigner locality condition to criticize the latter, which I do not advocate. 2 The conclusions of Healey's admirably written article are therefore welcome to me. But if I had wished to advocate the ACV, I do not think that his arguments would have dissuaded me. Specifically, as I shall explain, we should distinguish between Physical Locality and Metaphysical Locality. The (...)
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  21. Hans Halvorson (2001). A Philosopher's Understanding of Quantum Mechanics: Possibilities and Impossibilities of a Modal Interpretation Pieter Vermaas. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (2):387-391.
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  22. Hans Halvorson & Rob Clifton (1999). Maximal Beable Subalgebras of Quantum-Mechanical Observables. International Journal of Theoretical Physics 38:2441-2484.
    The centerpiece of Jeffrey Bub's book Interpreting the Quantum World is a theorem (Bub and Clifton 1996) which correlates each member of a large class of no-collapse interpretations with some 'privileged observable'. In particular, the Bub-Clifton theorem determines the unique maximal sublattice L(R,e) of propositions such that (a) elements of L(R,e) can be simultaneously determinate in state e, (b) L(R,e) contains the spectral projections of the privileged observable R, and (c) L(R,e) is picked out by R and e alone. In (...)
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  23. Gary M. Hardegree (1976). The Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1976:82 - 103.
    This paper presents a general formal semantic scheme for the interpretation of quantum mechanics, in terms of which van Fraassen's Copenhagen and anti-Copenhagen variants of the modal interpretation are examined. The general character of the modal interpretation is motivated in a discussion of classical statistical mechanics, the distinction being made between statistical states and micro-states. The notion of a quasi-classical (micro) state is introduced in a discussion of the theorem of Gleason and Kochen and Specker. It is shown that, according (...)
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  24. Meir Hemmo (1996). Possible Worlds in the Modal Interpretation. Philosophy of Science 63 (3):337.
    An outline for a modal interpretation in terms of possible worlds is presented. The so-called Schmidt histories are taken to correspond to the physically possible worlds. The decoherence function defined in the histories formulation of quantum theory is taken to prescribe a non-classical probability measure over the set of the possible worlds. This is shown to yield dynamics in the form of transition probabilities for occurrent events in each world. The role of the consistency condition is discussed.
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  25. Douglas Kutach (2000). Review of Quantum Measurement: Beyond Paradox. [REVIEW] British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (4):947-951.
    Book Review of Quantum measurement: Beyond paradox.
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  26. Stephen Leeds & Richard Healey (1996). A Note on Van Fraassen's Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Philosophy of Science 63 (1):91-104.
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  27. Olimpia Lombardi & Mario Castagnino (2008). A Modal-Hamiltonian Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 39 (2):380-443.
    The aim of this paper is to introduce a new member of the family of the modal interpretations of quantum mechanics. In this modal-Hamiltonian interpretation, the Hamiltonian of the quantum system plays a decisive role in the property-ascription rule that selects the definite-valued observables whose possible values become actual. We show that this interpretation is effective for solving the measurement problem, both in its ideal and its non-ideal versions, and we argue for the physical relevance of the property-ascription rule by (...)
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  28. Olimpia Lombardi & Dennis Dieks (forthcoming). Modal Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  29. Olimpia Lombardi, Sebastian Fortin, Mario Castagnino & Juan Sebastián Ardenghi (2011). Compatibility Between Environment-Induced Decoherence and the Modal-Hamiltonian Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Philosophy of Science 78 (5):1024-1036.
    Given the impressive success of environment-induced decoherence (EID), nowadays no interpretation of quantum mechanics can ignore its results. The modal-Hamiltonian interpretation (MHI) has proved to be effective for solving several interpretative problems but, since its actualization rule applies to closed systems, it seems to stand at odds of EID. The purpose of this paper is to show that this is not the case: the states einselected by the interaction with the environment according to EID (the elements of the “pointer basis”) (...)
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  30. Ozawa Masanao & Yuichiro Kitajima (2012). Reconstructing Bohr’s Reply to EPR in Algebraic Quantum Theory. Foundations of Physics 42 (4):475-487.
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  31. Wayne C. Myrvold (2009). Chasing Chimeras. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (3):635-646.
    Earman and Ruetsche ([2005]) have cast their gaze upon existing no-go theorems for relativistic modal interpretations, and have found them inconclusive. They suggest that it would be more fruitful to investigate modal interpretations proposed for "really relativistic theories," that is, algebraic relativistic quantum field theories. They investigate the proposal of Clifton ([2000]), and extend Clifton's result that, for a host of states, his proposal yields no definite observables other than multiples of the identity. This leads Earman and Ruetsche to a (...)
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  32. Wayne C. Myrvold (2002). Modal Interpretations and Relativity. Foundations of Physics 32 (11):1773-1784.
    A proof is given, at a greater level of generality than previous 'no-go' theorems, of the impossibility of formulating a modal interpretation that exhibits 'serious' Lorentz invariance at the fundamental level. Particular attention is given to modal interpretations of the type proposed by Bub.
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  33. E. P. (1999). Two No-Go Theorems for Modal Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 30 (3):403-431.
    Modal interpretations take quantum mechanics as a theory which assigns at all times definite values to magnitudes of quantum systems. In the case of single systems, modal interpretations manage to do so without falling prey to the Kochen and Specker no-go theorem, because they assign values only to a limited set of magnitudes. In this paper I present two further no-go theorems which prove that two modal interpretations become nevertheless problematic when applied to more than one system. The first theorem (...)
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  34. Laura Ruetsche (2003). Modal Semantics, Modal Dynamics and the Problem of State Preparation. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17 (1):25 – 41.
    It has been suggested that the Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (QM) is "incomplete" if it lacks a dynamics for possessed values. I argue that this is only one of two possible attitudes one might adopt toward a Modal Interpretation without dynamics. According to the other attitude, such an interpretation is a complete interpretation of QM as standardly formulated, an interpretation whose innovation is to attempt to make sense of the quantum realm without the expedient of novel physics. Then I (...)
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  35. Laura Ruetsche (1996). Van Fraassen on Preparation and Measurement. Philosophy of Science 63 (3):346.
    Van Fraassen's 1991 modal interpretation of Quantum Mechanics offers accounts of measurement and state preparation. I argue that both accounts overlook a class of interactions I call General Unitary Measurements, or GUMs. Ironically, GUMs are significant for van Fraassen's account of measurement because they challenge it, and significant for his account of preparation because they simplify it. Van Fraassen's oversight prompts a question about modal interpretations: developed to account for ideal measurement outcomes, can they consistently account as well for the (...)
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  36. Pieter E. Vermaas (1999). A Philosopher's Understanding of Quantum Mechanics: Possibilities and Impossibilities of a Modal Interpretation. Cambridge University Press.
    This book is about how to understand quantum mechanics by means of a modal interpretation. Modal interpretations provide a general framework within which quantum mechanics can be considered as a theory that describes reality in terms of physical systems possessing definite properties. Quantum mechanics is standardly understood to be a theory about probabilities with which measurements have outcomes. Modal interpretations are relatively new attempts to present quantum mechanics as a theory which, like other physical theories, describes an observer-independent reality. In (...)
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  37. Pieter E. Vermaas (1999). Two No-Go Theorems for Modal Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 30 (3):403-431.
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  38. Pieter E. Vermaas & Dennis Dieks (1995). The Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics and its Generalization to Density Operators. Foundations of Physics 25 (1):145-158.
    We generalize the modal interpretation of quantum mechanics so that it may be applied to composite systems represented by arbitrary density operators. We discuss the interpretation these density operators receive and relate this to the discussion about the interpretation of proper and improper mixtures in the standard interpretation.
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