How Quantum Theory Helps Us Explain


Authors
Richard Andrew Healey
University of Arizona
Abstract
I offer an account of how the quantum theory we have helps us explain so much. The account depends on a pragmatist interpretation of the theory: this takes a quantum state to serve as a source of sound advice to physically situated agents on the content and appropriate degree of belief about matters concerning which they are currently inevitably ignorant. The general account of how to use quantum states and probabilities to explain otherwise puzzling regularities is then illustrated by showing how we can explain single-particle interference phenomena, the stability of matter, and interference of Bose–Einstein condensates. Finally, I note some open problems and relate this account to alternative approaches to explanation that emphasize the importance of causation, of unification, and of structure. 1 Introduction2 Two Requirements on Explanations in Physics3 What We Can use Quantum Theory to Explain4 The Function of Quantum States and Born Probabilities5 How These Functions Contribute to the Explanatory Task6 Example One: Single-Particle Interference7 Example Two: Explanation of the Stability of Matter8 Example Three: Bose Condensation9 Conclusion
Keywords quantum theory  scientific explanation  pragmatist interpretation
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Reprint years 2013, 2015
DOI 10.1093/bjps/axt031
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Making It Explicit.Isaac Levi & Robert B. Brandom - 1994 - Journal of Philosophy 93 (3):145.
The Essential Tension.T. S. Kuhn - 1977 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 31 (4):359-375.

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Citations of this work BETA

Causal Relations and Explanatory Strategies in Physics.Andrew Wayne - 2015 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (1):75-89.
Explanatory Integration.Andrew Wayne - 2017 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science:1-19.

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