Scientific Realism without the Wave-Function: An Example of Naturalized Quantum Metaphysics

In Steven French & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Scientific Realism and the Quantum. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2020)
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Scientific realism is the view that our best scientific theories can be regarded as (approximately) true. This is connected with the view that science, physics in particular, and metaphysics could (and should) inform one another: on the one hand, science tells us what the world is like, and on the other hand, metaphysical principles allow us to select between the various possible theories which are underdetermined by the data. Nonetheless, quantum mechanics has always been regarded as, at best, puzzling, if not contradictory. As such, it has been considered for a long time at odds with scientific realism, and thus a naturalized quantum metaphysics was deemed impossible. Luckily, now we have many quantum theories compatible with a realist interpretation. However, scientific realists assumed that the wave-function, regarded as the principal ingredient of quantum theories, had to represent a physical entity, and because of this they struggled with quantum superpositions. In this paper I discuss a particular approach which makes quantum mechanics compatible with scientific realism without doing that. In this approach, the wave-function does not represent matter which is instead represented by some spatio-temporal entity dubbed the primitive ontology: point-particles, continuous matter fields, space-time events. I argue how within this framework one develops a distinctive theory-construction schema, which allows to perform a more informed theory evaluation by analyzing the various ingredients of the approach and their inter-relations.

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Valia Allori
University of Bergamo

Citations of this work

Wave-functionalism.Valia Allori - 2021 - Synthese 199 (5-6):12271-12293.
Knowledge of the Quantum Domain: An Overlap Strategy.James Duncan Fraser & Peter Vickers - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
Taking models seriously and being a linguistic realist.Raoni Wohnrath Arroyo & Gilson Olegario da Silva - 2022 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 26 (1):73-94.

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