Should philosophers take lessons from quantum theory?

Inquiry 42 (3 & 4):311 – 342 (1999)
Abstract
This essay examines some of the arguments in David Deutsch's book The Fabric of Reality , chief among them its case for the so-called many-universe interpretation of quantum mechanics (QM), presented as the only physically and logically consistent solution to the QM paradoxes of wave/particle dualism, remote simultaneous interaction, the observer-induced 'collapse of the wave-packet', etc. The hypothesis assumes that all possible outcomes are realized in every such momentary 'collapse', since the observer splits off into so many parallel, coexisting, but epistemically non-interaccessible 'worlds' whose subsequent branchings constitute the lifeline-or experiential world-series- for each of those proliferating centres of consciousness. Although Deutsch concedes that his 'multiverse' theory is counter-intuitive, he none the less takes it to be borne out beyond question by the sheer observational/predictive success of QM and the conceptual dilemmas that supposedly arise with alternative (single-universe) accounts. Moreover, he claims the theory resolves a range of longstanding philosophical problems, notably those of mind/body dualism, the various traditional paradoxes of time, and the freewill/determinism issue. The essay suggests on the contrary, that Deutsch unwittingly transposes into the framework of presentday quantum debate speculative themes from the history of rationalist metaphysics, often with bizarre or philosophically dubious results, and that he rules out at least one promising rival account, namely Bohm's 'hidden variables' theory. It goes on to consider reasons for resistance to that theory among proponents of the 'orthodox' (Copenhagen) doctrine, and for the strong anti-realist, at times even irrationalist bias that has characterized much of this discussion since Bohr's debates with Einstein about quantum non-locality, observer-intervention, and the limits of precise measurement. Finally, the contrast is pointed out between Deutsch's ontologically extravagant use of the many-worlds hypothesis (akin to certain ideas advanced by speculative metaphysicians from Leibniz down) and those realist modes of counterfactual reasoning- e.g. in Kripke and the early Putnam- which deploy similar arguments to very different causal-explanatory ends.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 10,999
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Similar books and articles
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-01-28

Total downloads

18 ( #92,606 of 1,101,078 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #115,886 of 1,101,078 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.