Dissertation, Rutgers University, New Brunswick (2019)

Eddy Keming Chen
University of California, San Diego
What is the proper metaphysics of quantum mechanics? In this dissertation, I approach the question from three different but related angles. First, I suggest that the quantum state can be understood intrinsically as relations holding among regions in ordinary space-time, from which we can recover the wave function uniquely up to an equivalence class (by representation and uniqueness theorems). The intrinsic account eliminates certain conventional elements (e.g. overall phase) in the representation of the quantum state. It also dispenses with first-order quantification over mathematical objects, which goes some way towards making the quantum world safe for a nominalistic metaphysics suggested in Field (1980, 2016). Second, I argue that the fundamental space of the quantum world is the low-dimensional physical space and not the high-dimensional space isomorphic to the ``configuration space.'' My arguments are based on considerations about dynamics, empirical adequacy, and symmetries of the quantum mechanics. Third, I show that, when we consider quantum mechanics in a time-asymmetric universe (with a large entropy gradient), we obtain new theoretical and conceptual possibilities. In such a model, we can use the low-entropy boundary condition known as the Past Hypothesis (Albert, 2000) to pin down a natural initial quantum state of the universe. However, the universal quantum state is not a pure state but a mixed state, represented by a density matrix that is the normalized projection onto the Past Hypothesis subspace. This particular choice has interesting consequences for Humean supervenience, statistical mechanical probabilities, and theoretical unity.
Keywords fundamentality  metaphysics of quantum mechanics  wave function  configuration space  nominalism  the direction of time  entropy  unification  density matrix
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
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

Metaphysical Dependence: Grounding and Reduction.Gideon Rosen - 2010 - In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 109-135.
Science Without Numbers: A Defence of Nominalism.Hartry H. Field - 1980 - Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
The Metaphysics Within Physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - Oxford University Press.

View all 83 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Quantum Mechanics in a Time-Asymmetric Universe: On the Nature of the Initial Quantum State.Eddy Keming Chen - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (4):1155–1183.
Realism About the Wave Function.Eddy Keming Chen - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (7).
The Intrinsic Structure of Quantum Mechanics.Eddy Keming Chen - 2019 - In Essays on the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. New Brunswick, NJ: PhD dissertation, Rutgers University. pp. Chapter 1.
Ontological Reduction and the Wave Function Ontology.Alyssa Ney - 2013 - In Alyssa Ney & David Z. Albert (eds.), The Wave Function: Essays on the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. Oxford University Press. pp. 168-183.
What is a Wavefunction.Wayne C. Myrvold - 2015 - Synthese 192 (10):3247-3274.
The Structure of a Quantum World.Jill North - 2013 - In Alyssa Ney & David Albert (eds.), The Wave Function: Essays on the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. Oxford University Press. pp. 184-202.
Is - kTr( Ln ) the Entropy in Quantum Mechanics.Orly Shenker - 1999 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (1):33-48.
Quantum Gravity As the Unification of General Relativity & Quantum Mechanics.Vasil Penchev - 2020 - Philosophy of Science eJournal (Elsevier: SSRN) 13 (32):1-3.


Added to PP index

Total views
152 ( #76,007 of 2,499,862 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
129 ( #5,090 of 2,499,862 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes