Does time-symmetry imply retrocausality? How the quantum world says “Maybe”?

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 43 (2):75-83 (2012)
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Abstract

It has often been suggested that retrocausality offers a solution to some of the puzzles of quantum mechanics: e.g., that it allows a Lorentz-invariant explanation of Bell correlations, and other manifestations of quantum nonlocality, without action-at-a-distance. Some writers have argued that time-symmetry counts in favour of such a view, in the sense that retrocausality would be a natural consequence of a truly time-symmetric theory of the quantum world. Critics object that there is complete time-symmetry in classical physics, and yet no apparent retrocausality. Why should the quantum world be any different? This note throws some new light on these matters. I call attention to a respect in which quantum mechanics is different, under some assumptions about quantum ontology. Under these assumptions, the combination of time-symmetry without retrocausality is unavailable in quantum mechanics, for reasons intimately connected with the differences between classical and quantum physics (especially the role of discreteness in the latter). Not all interpretations of quantum mechanics share these assumptions, however, and in those that do not, time-symmetry does not entail retrocausality.

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Huw Price
University of Bonn

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References found in this work

Time’s Arrow and Archimedes’ Point.Huw Price - 1996 - Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 59 (4):1093-1096.
The Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.John G. Cramer - 1986 - Reviews of Modern Physics 58 (3):647-687.
Beables for Quantum Field Theory.J. S. Bell - 1987 - In Basil J. Hiley & D. Peat (eds.), Quantum Implications: Essays in Honour of David Bohm. Methuen. pp. 227--234.

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