Quantum Mechanics and Reality: An Interpretation of Everett's Theory

Dissertation, Stanford University (1997)
The central part of Everett's formulation of quantum mechanics is a quantum mechanical model of memory and of observation as the recording of information in a memory. To use this model as an answer to the measurement problem, Everett has to assume that a conscious observer can be in a superposition of such memory states and be unaware of it. This assumption has puzzled generations of readers. ;The fundamental aim of this dissertation is to find a set of simpler assumptions which are sufficient to show that Everett's model is empirically adequate. I argue that Everett's model needs three assumptions to account for the process of observation: an assumption of decoherence of observers as quantum mechanical systems; an assumption of supervenience of mental states over quantum mechanical properties; and an assumption about the interpretation of quantum mechanical states in general: quantum mechanical states describe ensembles of states of affairs coexisting in the same system. I argue that the only plausible understanding of such ensembles is as ensembles of possibilities, and that all standard no-collapse interpretations agree in this reading of quantum mechanical states. Their differences can be understood as different theories about what marks the real state within this ensemble, and Everett's theory as the claim that no additional 'mark of reality' is necessary. ;Using the three assumptions, I argue that introspection cannot determine the objective quantum mechanical state of an observer. Rather, the introspective qualities of a quantum mechanical state can be represented by a statistical ensemble of subjective states. An analysis of these subjective states and their dynamics leads to the conclusion that they suffice to give empirically correct predictions. The argument for the empirical adequacy of the subjective state entails that knowledge of the objective quantum mechanical state is impossible in principle. Empirical reality for a conscious observer is not described by the objective state, but by a Everettian relative state conditional on the subjective state, and no theoretical 'mark of reality' is necessary for this concept of reality. I compare the resulting concept of reality to Kant's distinction between empirical and transcendental reality
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