Quantum Philosophy - Understanding and Interpreting Contemporary Science
Omnes (Roland)
Source: Omnes - Quantum Philosophy - Understanding and Interpreting Contemporary Science
Paper - Abstract

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Preface

  1. This essay has a leading thread, whose origins may be retraced to Francis Bacon's The Great Instauration: one day, the principles of science will be so close to the heart and the essence of things that philosophy will be able to find in them its own foundations. Let us temper that wish and speak only of philosophy of knowledge; let us, on the contrary, bolster it and say that such a day has arrived, and there you have the summary of this book.
  2. The time has come to force our way out of a current crisis in epistemology. There is indeed a crisis, for unlike the flourishing situation in the history of knowledge, the philosophical reflection about science has lost its way — or stagnates. The fashionable authors see only uncertainties, paradigms without enduring principles, an absence of method, and a presence of erratic revolutions, precisely when we should be trumpeting the success of a science whose extent and consistency are unprecedented. To counter this deficiency we can turn only to ancient thinkers, no doubt wiser, but also unable to provide the required antidote, for their science is no longer ours; it has progressed too much.
  3. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the origin of this crisis is to be found in an event that no one has fully recognized in all its significance: the irresistible irruption of the formal approach in some fundamental sciences such as logic, mathematics, and physics. As a consequence, these disciplines have become practically impenetrable, which explains the capitulation or the adventurousness of so many commentators, not to mention the disarray of the honest man or woman who wonders what those who should understand these subjects are talking about.
  4. A good part of this book retraces this rise toward formalism and shows its necessity, not only in mathematics, but also in the foundations of relativity and quantum physics, and in the theories dealing with all that makes up the universe, space, and particles. As a counterbalance, another part of the book shows how to loosen that formalism and overcome it. The path was shown by certain advances in the interpretation of quantum mechanics, thanks to which it was possible to resolve a good number of difficulties that were hard to accept even in this domain where, more than in any other, the principles of philosophy clash with those of nature. The key to the problem appeared only gradually, through efforts in specialized fields and technical results. But in the end, everything turned out to be quite simple: the principles that science has already mastered are sufficient to recover common sense, to demonstrate its necessity in a certain sense, and at the same time to establish its limits and those of certain philosophical "principles" derived from it. Thus, despite its formal aspects, science brings with it a theory of knowledge, once again transparent, that can explain how we humans understand the world.
  5. Could all that ever lead to a philosophy of knowledge reaching into the very nature of reality? We do not know, even if we can see it taking form already, while we are still busy only dreaming of it.
Contents
    Preface – xi
    Acknowledgments – xiii
    Prelude – xv
    PART ONE: THE LEGACY – 1
  1. Classical Logic – 6
    • Pythagoras and the Pariah – 7
    • Plato and the Logos – 10
    • The Logic of Aristotle and of Chrysippus – 12
    • The Paradoxes – 16
    • Two Useful Notions – 19
    • The Universals1 – 20
  2. Classical Physics – 23
    • Astronomy, from Hipparchus to Kepler – 23
    • The Dawn of Mechanics – 28
    • Newton's Dynamics – 31
    • Waves in the Ether – 36
    • The Beginning of Electromagnetism – 39
    • A Turning Point: Maxwell's Equations – 41
  3. Classical Mathematics – 47
    • Classical Mathematics – 47
    • Rigor and Profusion in the Nineteenth Century – 53
    • Mathematics and Infinity – 58
  4. Classical Philosophy of Knowledge – 62
    • Francis Bacon and Experience – 62
    • Descartes and Reason – 64
    • Locke and Empiricism – 66
    • Digression: Cognition Sciences
    • Hume's Pragmatism
    • Kant
    PART TWO: THE FRACTURE
  5. Formal Mathematics
    • The Age of Formalism
    • Formal Logic
    • Symbols and Sets
    • Propositions
    • Some Remarks Regarding Truth
    • Taming Infinity
    • Today's Mathematics
    • The Crisis in the Foundations of Set Theory
    • Godel's Incompleteness Theorem
    • A Tentative Conclusion
  6. The Philosophy of Mathematics
    • What Is Mathematics?
    • Mathematical Realism
    • Nominalism
    • Mathematical Sociologism
    • Mathematics and Physical Reality
  7. Formal Physics
    • The Century of Formal Physics
    • Relativity
    • The Relativistic Theory of Gravitation
    • The Prehistory of the Atom
    • Classical Physics in a Straitjacket
    • The Assassination of Classical Physics
    • The Harvest of Results
  8. The Epistemology of Physics
    • Why Do We Need Interpretation?
    • Uncertainties – 150
    • The Principle of Complementarity – 152
    • The Reduction of the Wave Function – 155
    PART THREE: FROM FORMAL BACK TO VISUAL: THE QUANTUM CASE – 159
  9. Between Logic and Physics – 163
    • The Outline of a Program – 163
    • The Logic of Common Sense – 165
    • Classical Dynamics and Determinism – 168
    • With the Help of an Angel – 170
    • Observables – 173
    • Rudiments of a Quantum Dialect – 174
    • Histories – 177
    • The Role of Probabilities – 178
    • The Logic of the Quantum World – 180
    • Complementarity – 181
    • A Logical Law of Physics – 182
  10. Rediscovering Common Sense – 184
    • The World on a Large Scale – 184
    • The Logic of Common Sense – 186
    • Determinism – 190
    • A First Philosophical Survey – 193
  11. From the Measurable to the Unmeasurable – 196
    • The Poignant Problem of Interferences – 196
    • The Decoherence Effect – 199
    • The Wonders of Decoherence: Physical – 202
    • The Wonders of Decoherence: Logical – 204
    • Last Wonders: The Direction of Time – 207
    • Measurement – Theory 208
    • Wave Function Reduction Revisited – 209
    • The Chasm – 211
    • Addendum – 215
  12. On Realism – 216
    • A Brief History of Realism – 216
    • Quantum Physics and Realism – 221
    • Ordinary Reality – 223
    • Rationality versus Realism – 224
    • The "EPR" Experiment – 225
    • Bell and Aspect – 227
    • Controversies about Histories – 230
    • Toward a Wider Realism – 233
    PART FOUR: STATE OF THE QUESTION AND PERSPECTIVES – 235
  13. A New Beginning – 237
    • A Preliminary Report – 237
    • The Beginnings of a Philosophy – 239
    • The Religious Temptation and the Sacred – 241
  14. What Is Science? – 246
    • Science as Representation – 246
    • On Certain Types of Laws – 248
    • The Transformations of Science – 250
    • Thomas Kuhn – 252
  15. Method – 255
    • A Method for Judging, Not for Building – 255
    • Which Method? – 256
    • A Four-Stage Method – 257
    • The Nature of the Four Stages – 260
    • The Lesson of the Failed Attempts – 261
    • Method and the Social Sciences – 262
    • Consistency and Beauty – 264
    • The Flexibility of Principles – 266
    • The Thing in the World Most Evenly Distributed – 267
  16. Vanishing Perspectives – 269
    • The Theory of Knowledge – 269
    • Logos – 271
    • The Instauration – 273
    • Founding Science – 278
    Glossary – 283
    Name Index – 291
    Subject Index – 295

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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