Time, quantum mechanics, and probability

Synthese 114 (3):373-404 (1998)
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Abstract

A variety of ideas arising in decoherence theory, and in the ongoing debate over Everett's relative-state theory, can be linked to issues in relativity theory and the philosophy of time, specifically the relational theory of tense and of identity over time. These have been systematically presented in companion papers (Saunders 1995; 1996a); in what follows we shall consider the same circle of ideas, but specifically in relation to the interpretation of probability, and its identification with relations in the Hilbert Space norm. The familiar objection that Everett's approach yields probabilities different from quantum mechanics is easily dealt with. The more fundamental question is how to interpret these probabilities consistent with the relational theory of change, and the relational theory of identity over time. I shall show that the relational theory needs nothing more than the physical, minimal criterion of identity as defined by Everett's theory, and that this can be transparently interpreted in terms of the ordinary notion of the chance occurrence of an event, as witnessed in the present. It is in this sense that the theory has empirical content.

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Simon Saunders
Oxford University

Citations of this work

Everett and structure.David Wallace - 2003 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 34 (1):87-105.
Understanding Deutsch's probability in a deterministic universe.Hilary Greaves - 2004 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 35 (3):423-456.

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Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
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Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science.Hermann Weyl - 1949 - Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Edited by Olaf Helmer-Hirschberg & Frank Wilczek.
Survival and identity.David Lewis - 1976 - In Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (ed.), The Identities of Persons. University of California Press. pp. 17-40.

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