The general question to be considered in this paper points to the nature of the world described by chemistry: what is macro-chemical ontology like? In particular, we want to identify the ontological categories that underlie chemical discourse and chemical practice. This is not an easy task, because modern Western metaphysics was strongly modeled by theoretical physics. For this reason, we attempt to answer our question by contrasting macro-chemical ontology with the mainstream ontology of physics and of traditional metaphysics. In particular, (...) we introduce the distinction between stuff-ontology, proper of chemistry, and individual-ontology, proper of physics. These two ontologies differ from each other in the basic categories of their own structures. On this basis, we characterize individual-ontology in such a way that the features of stuff-ontology will arise by contrast with it. (shrink)
Ilya Prigogine was not a systematic author: his ideas, covering a wide arch of areas, are dispersed in his many writings. In particular, his philosophical thought has to be reconstructed mainly on the basis of his works in collaboration with Isabelle Stengers: La Nouvelle Alliance ( 1979 ), Order out of Chaos ( 1984 ), and Entre le Temps et l’Éternité ( 1988 ). In this paper I undertake that reconstruction in order to argue that Prigogine’s position, when read in (...) the light of Putnam’s internalist realism, can be characterized as an ontological pluralism. The main aim of this work is to show the striking parallelism between the philosophical views of Prigogine and Stengers and those of Hilary Putnam in Reason , Truth and History ( 1981 ). This task will lead me to critically review Prigogine’s general scientific program: the attempt to establish the foundations of objective irreversibility. (shrink)
The aim of the present paper is to analyze the problem of the relationship between chemistry and physics, by focusing on the widely discussed case of the atomic orbitals. We will begin by remembering the difference between the physical and the chemical interpretation of the concept of orbital. Then, we will refer to the claim made in 1999 that atomic orbitals have been directly imaged for the first time. On this basis, we will analyze the problem from a new approach, (...) by comparing the concept of orbital used in physics with the concept of orbital used in chemistry. Such an analysis will allow us to argue for an ontological pluralism that admits the coexistence of different ontologies without priorities or metaphysical privileges. From this philosophical framework, the concepts of chemical orbital and physical orbital correspond to two different ontologies. As a consequence, chemical orbitals are real entities belonging to the ontology of molecular chemistry, and can be observed like any other entity not belonging to the quantum mechanical ontology. DOI:10.5007/1808-1711.2010v14n3p309. (shrink)
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”) (...) are the eigenvectors of an actual-valued observable belonging to the preferred context selected by the MHI. (shrink)
In this paper we will address the problem of the existence of orbitals by analyzing the relationship between molecular chemistry and quantum mechanics. In particular, we will consider the concept of orbital in the light of the arguments that deny its referring character. On this basis, we will conclude that the claim that orbitals do not exist relies on a metaphysical reductionism which, if consistently sustained, would lead to consequences clashing with the effective practice of science in its different branches.
According to the environment-induced approach to decoherence (EID), the split of the Universe into the degrees of freedom which are of direct interest to the observer (the system) and the remaining degrees of freedom (the environment) is absolutely essential for decoherence. However, the EID approach offers no general criterion for deciding where to place the “cut” between system and environment: the environment may be “external” (a bath of particles interacting with the system of interest) or “internal” (such as collections of (...) phonons or other internal excitations). The main purpose of this paper is to argue that decoherence is a relative phenomenon, better understood from a closed-system perspective according to which the split of a closed quantum system into an open subsystem and its environment is just a way of selecting a particular space of relevant observables of the whole closed system. In order to support this claim, we shall consider the results obtained in a natural generalization of the simple spin-bath model usually studied in the literature. Our main thesis will lead us to two corollaries. First, the problem of identifying the system that decoheres is actually a pseudo-problem, which vanishes as soon as one acknowledges the relative nature of decoherence. Second, the usually supposed link between decoherence and energy dissipation is misguided. As previously pointed out, energy dissipation and decoherence are different phenomena, and we shall argue for this difference on the basis of the relative nature of decoherence. (shrink)
Since the nineteenth century, the problem of the arrow of time has been traditionally analyzed in terms of entropy by relating the direction past-to-future to the gradient of the entropy function of the universe. In this paper, we reject this traditional perspective and argue for a global and non-entropic approach to the problem, according to which the arrow of time can be defined in terms of the geometrical properties of spacetime. In particular, we show how the global non-entropic arrow can (...) be transferred to the local level, where it takes the form of a non-spacelike local energy flow that provides the criterion for breaking the symmetry resulting from time-reversal invariant local laws. (shrink)
Klaus Ruthenberg and Jaap van Brakel (eds): Stuff. The nature of chemical substances Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 183-186 DOI 10.1007/s10698-009-9077-6 Authors Martín Labarca, CONICET, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes Buenos Aires Argentina Olimpia Lombardi, CONICET, Universidad de Buenos Aires Buenos Aires Argentina Journal Foundations of Chemistry Online ISSN 1572-8463 Print ISSN 1386-4238 Journal Volume Volume 11 Journal Issue Volume 11, Number 3.
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 (...) applying it to well-known physical situations. Moreover, we explain how this interpretation supplies a description of the elemental categories of the ontology referred to by the theory, where quantum systems turn out to be bundles of possible properties. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that the formalisms for decoherence originally devised to deal just with closed or open systems can be subsumed under a general conceptual framework, in such a way that they cooperate in the understanding of the same physical phenomenon. This new perspective dissolves certain conceptual difficulties of the einselection program but, at the same time, shows that the openness of the quantum system is not the essential ingredient for decoherence. †To contact the authors, please write to: (...) Mario Castagnino, CONICET-IAFE, Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires, Casilla de Correos 67, Sucursal 28, 1428 Buenos Aires, Argentina; Roberto Laura, IFIR-Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Av. Pellegrini 250, 2000 Rosario, Argentina; Olimpia Lombardi, CONICET-Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires, C. Larralde 3440, 6°D, 1430, Buenos Aires; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to analyze time-asymmetric quantum mechanics with respect to the problems of irreversibility and of time's arrow. We begin with arguing that both problems are conceptually different. Then, we show that, contrary to a common opinion, the theory's ability to describe irreversible quantum processes is not a consequence of the semigroup evolution laws expressing the non-time-reversal invariance of the theory. Finally, we argue that time-asymmetric quantum mechanics, either in Prigogine's version or in Bohm's version, does (...) not solve the problem of the arrow of time because it does not supply a substantial and theoretically founded criterion for distinguishing between the two directions of time. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to analyze the concepts of time-reversal invariance and irreversibility in the so-called 'time-asymmetric quantum mechanics'. We begin with pointing out the difference between these two concepts. On this basis, we show that irreversibility is not as tightly linked to the semigroup evolution laws of the theory -which lead to its non time-reversal invariance- as usually suggested. In turn, we argue that the irreversible evolutions described by the theory are coarse-grained processes.
In this paper we argue that the emergence of the classical world from the underlying quantum reality involves two elements: self-induced decoherence and macroscopicity. Self-induced decoherence does not require the openness of the system and its interaction with the environment: a single closed system can decohere when its Hamiltonian has continuous spectrum. We show that, if the system is macroscopic enough, after self-induced decoherence it can be described as an ensemble of classical distributions weighted by their corresponding probabilities. We also (...) argue that classicality is an emergent property that arises when the behavior of the system is described from an observational perspective. (shrink)
El objetivo del presente trabajo consiste en analizar las diferencias entre los enfoques de Boltzmann y de Gibbs respecto del problema de la irreversibilidad. Dicho análisis nos permitirá poner de manifiesto que, en las discusiones acerca de las condiciones necesarias para la irreversibilidad, no suele advertirse que la diferencia central entre los dos enfoques consiste en la utilización de diferentes conceptos de equilibrio y, por tanto, de irreversibilidad. Finalmente se argumentará que, si bien inicialmente ambos enfoques parecen por completo irreconciliables, (...) existen condiciones físicas definidas bajo las cuales los resultados que proporcionan ambos marcos teóricos se aproximan lo suficiente como para ser considerados igualmente admisibles desde el punto de vista de la práctica de la física. /// The aim of this paper is to analyze the differences between the approaches of Boltzmann and Gibbs with respect to the problem of irreversibility. This analysis will allow us to show that, in the discussion about the necessary conditions for irreversibility, it goes often unnoticed that the main difference between the two approaches is the use of different concepts of equilibrium and, as a consequence, of irreversibility. Finally, we will argue that, although in principie both approaches seem completely irreconcilable, there are definite physical conditions under which the results provided by both theoretical frameworks are similar enough to be considered equally admissible for all practical purposes. (shrink)
In the problem of the relationship between chemistry and physics, many authors take for granted the ontological reduction of the chemical world to the world of physics. The autonomy of chemistry is usually defended on the basis of the failure of epistemological reduction: not all chemical concepts and laws can be derived from the theoretical framework of physics. The main aim of this paper is to argue that this line of argumentation is not strong enough for eliminate the idea of (...) a hierarchical dependence of chemistry with respect to physics. The rejection of the secondary position of chemistry and the defense of the legitimacy of the philosophy of chemistry require a radically different philosophical perspective that denies not only epistemological reduction but also ontological reduction. Only on the basis of a philosophically grounded ontological pluralism it is possible to accept the ontological autonomy of the chemical world and, with this, to reverse the traditional idea of the ‘superiority’ of physics in the context of natural sciences. (shrink)
The main aim of this work is to contribute tothe elucidation of the concept of informationby comparing three different views about thismatter: the view of Fred Dretske's semantictheory of information, the perspective adoptedby Peter Kosso in his interaction-informationaccount of scientific observation, and thesyntactic approach of Thomas Cover and JoyThomas. We will see that these views involvevery different concepts of information, eachone useful in its own field of application. This comparison will allow us to argue in favorof a terminological `cleansing': it (...) is necessaryto make a terminological distinction among thedifferent concepts of information, in order toavoid conceptual confusions when the word`information' is used to elucidate relatedconcepts as knowledge, observation orentropy. (shrink)
El propósito del presente artículo es evaluar en qué sentido y bajo qué condiciones la ergodicidad es relevante para explicar el éxito de la mecánica estadística. Se objeta la positión de quienes sostienen que la ergodicidad es irrelevante para tal explicatión, y se señala que las propiedades ergódicas desempeñan diferentes papeles en la mecánica estadística del equilibrio y en la descriptión de la evolución hacia el equilibrio: es posible prescindir de la ergodicidad en el primer caso pero no en el (...) segundo. Sobre esta base, se reformularán las definiciones de ergodicidad y mezcla, relativizándolas a la macrovariable particular cuya evolución irreversible se desea describir. Finalmente, se enfatiza la importancia de tomar en cuenta la elaboratión de modelos para evaluar la utilizatión de los métodos de Gibbs. /// The aim of this paper is to consider in what sense and under what conditions ergodicity is relevant for explaining the success of Statistical Mechanics. We argue against those who claim that ergodicity is irrelevant to this explanation, by noting that ergodic properties play different roles in equilibrium Statistical Mechanics and in the description of the approach to equilibrium: it is possible to do without it in the first case but not in the second one. On this basis, we reformulate the definitions of ergodicity and mixing, relativizing them to the particular macrovariable whose irreversible evolution is to be described. Finally, we stress the relevance of taking into account model-construction for evaluating the use of Gibbs' methods. (shrink)
According to Zurek, decoherence is a process resulting from the interaction between a quantum system and its environment; this process singles out a preferred set of states, usually called “pointer basis”, that determines which observables will receive definite values. This means that decoherence leads to a sort of selection which precludes all except a small subset of the states in the Hilbert space of the system from behaving in a classical manner: environment-induced-superselection (einselection) is a consequence of the process of (...) decoherence. The aim of this paper is to present a new approach to decoherence, different from the mainstream approach of Zurek and his collaborators. We will argue that this approach offers conceptual advantages over the traditional one when problems of foundations are considered; in particular, from the new perspective, decoherence in closed quantum systems becomes possible and the preferred basis acquires a well founded definition. (shrink)
Scientific cosmology is an empirical discipline whose objects of study are the large-scale properties of the universe. In this context, it is usual to call the direction of the expansion of the universe the "cosmological arrow of time". However, there is no reason for privileging the ‘radius’ of the universe for defining the arrow of time over other geometrical properties of the space-time. Traditional discussions about the arrow of time in general involve the concept of entropy. In the cosmological context, (...) the direction past-to-future is usually related to the direction of the gradient of the entropy function of the universe. But entropy is a thermodynamic magnitude that is typically associated with subsystems of the universe: the entropy of the universe as a whole is a very controversial matter. Moreover, thermodynamics is a phenomenological theory. Geometrical properties of space-time provide a more fundamental and less controversial way of defining an arrow of time for the universe as a whole. We will call the arrow defined only on the basis of the geometrical properties of space-time, independently of any entropic considerations, the "cosmological arrow of time". In this paper we will argue that: (i) it is possible to define a cosmological arrow of time for the universe as a whole, if certain conditions are satisfied, and (ii) the standard models of contemporary cosmology satisfy these conditions. (shrink)
This paper presents a critical evaluation of different opinions about determinism in Classical Mechanics. The goal of this analysis is to show that, even in the supposedly non controversial field of Classical Mechanics, the answer about determinism is not univocally fixed by scientific arguments, but inescapably depends on the epistemological perspective fom which the problem is formulated.
Prigogine afirma que, en presencia de alta inestabilidad (caos), los estados puntuales y las trayectorias lineales en el espacio de las fases se convierten en una falsa idealización. En el presente trabajo se sostiene que: (i) los argumentos de Prigogine en favor de tal tesis no son concluyentes, y (ii) hay buenas razones para retener la postulacion de estados puntuales y trayectorias lineales, en tanto conceptos teóricos legítimos en mecánica estadística.Prigogine asserts that the existence of radical instability (chaos) makes the (...) postulation of pointlike states and linelike trajectories in phase space a false idealization. In this paper we argue that (i) Prigogine’s arguments for this claim are not conclusive, and (ii) there are good reasons for retain the positing of pointlike states and linelike trajectories as a legitimate theoretical posit in statistical mechanics. (shrink)