Holism, physical theories and quantum mechanics

Motivated by the question what it is that makes quantum mechanics a holistic theory, I try to define for general physical theories what we mean by `holism'. For this purpose I propose an epistemological criterion to decide whether or not a physical theory is holistic, namely: a physical theory is holistic if and only if it is impossible in principle to infer the global properties, as assigned in the theory, by local resources available to an agent. I propose that these resources include at least all local operations and classical communication. This approach is contrasted with the well-known approaches to holism in terms of supervenience. The criterion for holism proposed here involves a shift in emphasis from ontology to epistemology. I apply this epistemological criterion to classical physics and Bohmian mechanics as represented on a phase and configuration space respectively, and for quantum mechanics using the formalism of general quantum operations as completely positive trace non-increasing maps. Furthermore, I provide an interesting example from which one can conclude that quantum mechanics is holistic in the above mentioned sense, although, perhaps surprisingly, no entanglement is needed
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsb.2004.08.001
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References found in this work BETA
Paul Teller (1986). Relational Holism and Quantum Mechanics. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 37 (1):71-81.
Richard A. Healey (1991). Holism and Nonseparability. Journal of Philosophy 88 (8):393-421.
Tim Maudlin (1998). Part and Whole in Quantum Mechanics. In Elena Castellani (ed.), Interpreting Bodies. Princeton University Press 46--60.

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Citations of this work BETA
Aristidis Arageorgis (2013). Holism and Nonseparability by Analogy. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (3):206-214.

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