Superselection rules for philosophers

Erkenntnis 69 (3):377 - 414 (2008)
The overaraching goal of this paper is to elucidate the nature of superselection rules in a manner that is accessible to philosophers of science and that brings out the connections between superselection and some of the most fundamental interpretational issues in quantum physics. The formalism of von Neumann algebras is used to characterize three different senses of superselection rules (dubbed, weak, strong, and very strong) and to provide useful necessary and sufficient conditions for each sense. It is then shown how the Haag–Kastler algebraic approach to quantum physics holds the promise of a uniform and comprehensive account of the origin of superselection rules. Some of the challenges that must be met before this promise can be kept are discussed. The focus then turns to the role of superselection rules in solutions to the measurement problem and the emergence of classical properties. It is claimed that the role for “hard” superselection rules is limited, but “soft” (a.k.a. environmental) superselection rules or N. P. Landsman’s situational superselection rules may have a major role to play. Finally, an assessment is given of the recently revived attempts to deconstruct superselection rules.
Keywords Philosophy   Logic   Ethics   Ontology   Epistemology   Philosophy
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References found in this work BETA
Jeffrey Bub (1998). Interpreting the Quantum World. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (4):637-641.
N. P. Landsman (1995). Observation and Superselection in Quantum Mechanics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 26 (1):45-73.

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Citations of this work BETA
David Baker & Hans Halvorson (2010). Antimatter. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (1):93-121.
Vincent Lam (2015). Primitive Ontology and Quantum Field Theory. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (3):387-397.

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