This paper examines the epistemological significance of the present situation of underdetermination in quantum mechanics. After analyzing this underdetermination at three levels---formal, ontological, and methodological---the paper considers implications for a number of variants of the thesis of scientific realism in fundamental physics and reassesses Lakatos‘ characterization of progress in physical theory in light of the present situation. Next, this paper considers the implications of underdetermination for Weinberg’s ‘‘dream of a final theory.’’ Finally, the paper concludes by suggesting how one might (...) still think of realism and progress in fundamental physics despite the possibility of persistent underdetermination in quantum mechanics. (shrink)
The relationship between mathematical formalism, physical interpretation and epistemological appraisal in the practice of physical theorizing is considered in the context of Bohmian mechanics. After laying outthe formal mathematical postulates of thetheory and recovering the historical roots ofthe present debate over the meaning of Bohmianmechanics from the early debate over themeaning of Schrödinger's wave mechanics,several contemporary interpretations of Bohmianmechanics in the literature are discussed andcritiqued with respect to the aim of causalexplanation and an alternative interpretationis proposed. Throughout, the over-arching aimis (...) to exhibit the connections betweenmathematical, ontological and methodologicalquestions in physical theory and to reflect onthe rationality of physical theorizing in lightof the present case. (shrink)
An argument to the effect that quantum mechanics commits us to the existence of non-supervenient relations, and therefore that we should admit such relations into our quantum ontology as fundamental entities, has been given by Teller and reformulated by French. This paper aims, first, to explicate and evaluate that argument; second, to extend its premises in order to assess its relevance for other interpretations of quantum mechanics; and, third, to clarify its implications for holism and individuation in quantum ontology.
This paper continues an earlier work by considering in what sense and to what extent identical Bohmian-mechanical particles in many-particle systems can be considered indistinguishable. We conclude that while whether identical Bohmian-mechanical particles ace considered to be “statistically (in)distinguishable” is a matter of theory choice underdetermined by logic and experiment, such particles are in any case “physically distinguishable.”.
The question to be addressed is, In what sense and to what extent do quantum statistics for, and the standard formal quantum-mechanical description of, systems of many identical particles entail that identical quantum particles are indistinguishable? This paper argues that whether or not we consider identical quantum particles as indistinguishable is a matter of theory choice underdetermined by logic and experiment.
We first examine Howard's analysis of the Bell factorizability condition in terms of 'separability' and 'locality' and then consider his claims that the violations of Bell's inequality by the statistical predictions of quantum mechanics should be interpreted in terms of 'nonseparability' rather than 'nonlocality' and that 'nonseparability' implies the failure of spacetime as a principle of individuation for quantum-mechanical systems. We will argue that his argument for the first claim is less than compelling and that any argument for the second (...) claim will be interpretation-dependent and, hence, not generally valid. (shrink)
Husserl claimed that all theoretical scientific concepts originate in and are valid in reference to 'life-world' experience and that scientific traditions preserve the sense and validity of such concepts through unitary and cumulative change. Each of these claims will, in turn, be sympathetically laid out and assessed in comparison with more standard characterizations of scientific method and conceptual change as well as the history of physics, concerning particularly the challenge they may pose for scientific realism. The Husserlian phenomenological framework is (...) accepted here without defense, and hence the present project is limited to the task of asking what can and cannot be accommodated within that framework on its own terms. (shrink)