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Primitive Ontology and the Structure of Fundamental Physical Theories

In Alyssa Ney & David Z. Albert (eds.), The Wave Function: Essays in the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. Oxford University Press (2013)

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  1. Realism About the Wave Function.Eddy Keming Chen - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (7).
    A century after the discovery of quantum mechanics, the meaning of quantum mechanics still remains elusive. This is largely due to the puzzling nature of the wave function, the central object in quantum mechanics. If we are realists about quantum mechanics, how should we understand the wave function? What does it represent? What is its physical meaning? Answering these questions would improve our understanding of what it means to be a realist about quantum mechanics. In this survey article, I review (...)
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  • Separability, Locality, and Higher Dimensions in Quantum Mechanics.Alyssa Ney - manuscript
    *A shortened version of this paper will appear in Current Controversies in Philosophy of Science, Dasgupta and Weslake, eds. Routledge.* This paper describes the case that can be made for a high-dimensional ontology in quantum mechanics based on the virtues of avoiding both nonseparability and non locality.
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  • Scientific Realism and Primitive Ontology Or: The Pessimistic Induction and the Nature of the Wave Function.Valia Allori - 2018 - Lato Sensu 1 (5):69-76.
    In this paper I wish to connect the recent debate in the philosophy of quantum mechanics concerning the nature of the wave function to the historical debate in the philosophy of science regarding the tenability of scientific realism. Being realist about quantum mechanics is particularly challenging when focusing on the wave function. According to the wave function ontology approach, the wave function is a concrete physical entity. In contrast, according to an alternative viewpoint, namely the primitive ontology approach, the wave (...)
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  • Locality and Wave Function Realism.Alyssa Ney - manuscript
    Wave function realism is an interpretational framework for quantum theories that has been defended for its ability to provide a clear and natural metaphysics for quantum theories, one that is fundamentally both separable and local. This is in contrast to competitor primitive ontology frameworks that while they could be separable, are not local, and holist or structuralist approaches that while they could be local, are not separable. The claim that wave function realist metaphysics is local, however, is not as straightforward (...)
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  • Quantum Mechanics in a Time-Asymmetric Universe: On the Nature of the Initial Quantum State.Eddy Keming Chen - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axy068.
    In a quantum universe with a strong arrow of time, we postulate a low-entropy boundary condition to account for the temporal asymmetry. In this paper, I show that the Past Hypothesis also contains enough information to simplify the quantum ontology and define a unique initial condition in such a world. First, I introduce Density Matrix Realism, the thesis that the quantum universe is described by a fundamental density matrix that represents something objective. This stands in sharp contrast to Wave Function (...)
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  • About the Nature of the Wave Function and its Dimensionality: The Case of Quantum Chemistry.Sebastian Fortin & Jesús Alberto Jaimes Arriaga - unknown
    The problem of the 3N dimensions of the wave function is of particular interest in the philosophy of physics. In this work, we will recall the main positions about the nature and dimensionality of the wave function and we will introduce a new perspective, coming from quantum chemistry. For this, we will bring to light the formal operations that underlie the independent electron approximation. On this basis, we will point out how quantum chemistry can offer new arguments that contribute to (...)
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  • The Quantum Hall Effects: Philosophical Approach.P. Lederer - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 50:25-42.
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  • Laws of Nature and the Reality of the Wave Function.Mauro Dorato - 2015 - Synthese 192 (10):3179-3201.
    In this paper I review three different positions on the wave function, namely: nomological realism, dispositionalism, and configuration space realism by regarding as essential their capacity to account for the world of our experience. I conclude that the first two positions are committed to regard the wave function as an abstract entity. The third position will be shown to be a merely speculative attempt to derive a primitive ontology from a reified mathematical space. Without entering any discussion about nominalism, I (...)
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  • Time's Arrow in a Quantum Universe: On the Status of Statistical Mechanical Probabilities.Eddy Keming Chen - forthcoming - In Valia Allori (ed.), Statistical Mechanics and Scientific Explanation: Determinism, Indeterminism and Laws of Nature. World Scientific.
    In a quantum universe with a strong arrow of time, it is standard to postulate that the initial wave function started in a particular macrostate---the special low-entropy macrostate selected by the Past Hypothesis. Moreover, there is an additional postulate about statistical mechanical probabilities according to which the initial wave function is a ''typical'' choice in the macrostate. Together, they support a probabilistic version of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: typical initial wave functions will increase in entropy. Hence, there are two (...)
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  • Quantum States of a Time-Asymmetric Universe: Wave Function, Density Matrix, and Empirical Equivalence.Eddy Keming Chen - unknown
    What is the quantum state of the universe? Although there have been several interesting suggestions, the question remains open. In this paper, I consider a natural choice for the universal quantum state arising from the Past Hypothesis, a boundary condition that accounts for the time-asymmetry of the universe. The natural choice is given not by a wave function but by a density matrix. I begin by classifying quantum theories into two types: theories with a fundamental wave function and theories with (...)
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  • A Scientific Metaphysical Naturalisation of Information.Bruce Long - 2018 - Dissertation, University of Sydney
    The objective of this thesis is to present a naturalised metaphysics of information, or to naturalise information, by way of deploying a scientific metaphysics according to which contingency is privileged and a-priori conceptual analysis is excluded (or at least greatly diminished) in favour of contingent and defeasible metaphysics. The ontology of information is established according to the premises and mandate of the scientific metaphysics by inference to the best explanation, and in accordance with the idea that the primacy of physics (...)
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  • An Intrinsic Theory of Quantum Mechanics: Progress in Field's Nominalistic Program, Part I.Eddy Keming Chen - manuscript
    In this paper, I introduce an intrinsic account of the quantum state. This account contains three desirable features that the standard platonistic account lacks: (1) it does not refer to any abstract mathematical objects such as complex numbers, (2) it is independent of the usual arbitrary conventions in the wave function representation, and (3) it explains why the quantum state has its amplitude and phase degrees of freedom. -/- Consequently, this account extends Hartry Field’s program outlined in Science Without Numbers (...)
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  • Interpreting the Quantum Mechanics of Cosmology.David Wallace - forthcoming - In A. Ijjas & B. Loewer (eds.), Philosophy of Cosmology: an Introduction. Oxford University Press.
    Quantum theory plays an increasingly significant role in contemporary early-universe cosmology, most notably in the inflationary origins of the fluctuation spectrum of the microwave background radiation. I consider the two main strategies for interpreting standard quantum mechanics in the light of cosmology. I argue that the conceptual difficulties of the approaches based around an irreducible role for measurement - already very severe - become intolerable in a cosmological context, whereas the approach based around Everett's original idea of treating quantum systems (...)
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  • Against Wavefunction Realism.David Wallace - unknown
    I argue that wavefunction realism --- the view that quantum mechanics reveals the fundamental ontology of the world to be a field on a high-dimensional spacetime, must be rejected as relying on artefacts of too-simple versions of quantum mechanics, and not conceptually well-motivated even were those too-simple versions exactly correct. I end with some brief comments on the role of spacetime in any satisfactory account of the metaphysics of extant quantum theories.
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  • On the Plurality of Quantum Theories: Quantum Theory as a Framework, and its Implications for the Quantum Measurement Problem.David Wallace - forthcoming - In S. French & J. Saatsi (eds.), Scientific Realism and the Quantum. Oxford University Press.
    `Quantum theory' is not a single physical theory but a framework in which many different concrete theories fit. As such, a solution to the quantum measurement problem ought to provide a recipe to interpret each such concrete theory, in a mutually consistent way. But with the exception of the Everett interpretation, the mainextant solutions either try to make sense of the abstract framework as if it were concrete, or else interpret one particular quantum theory under the fiction that it is (...)
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  • A New Argument for the Nomological Interpretation of the Wave Function: The Galilean Group and the Classical Limit of Nonrelativistic Quantum Mechanics.Valia Allori - 2017 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science (2):177-188.
    In this paper I investigate, within the framework of realistic interpretations of the wave function in nonrelativistic quantum mechanics, the mathematical and physical nature of the wave function. I argue against the view that mathematically the wave function is a two-component scalar field on configuration space. First, I review how this view makes quantum mechanics non- Galilei invariant and yields the wrong classical limit. Moreover, I argue that interpreting the wave function as a ray, in agreement many physicists, Galilei invariance (...)
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  • Events and the Ontology of Quantum Mechanics.Mauro Dorato - 2015 - Topoi 34 (2):369-378.
    In the first part of the paper I argue that an ontology of events is precise, flexible and general enough so as to cover the three main alternative formulations of quantum mechanics as well as theories advocating an antirealistic view of the wave function. Since these formulations advocate a primitive ontology of entities living in four-dimensional spacetime, they are good candidates to connect that quantum image with the manifest image of the world. However, to the extent that some form of (...)
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  • Realism and Instrumentalism About the Wave Function. How Should We Choose?Mauro Dorato & Federico Laudisa - 2014 - In Shao Gan (ed.), Protective Measurements and Quantum Reality: Toward a New Understanding of Quantum Mechanics. Cambridge University Press.
    The main claim of the paper is that one can be ‘realist’ (in some sense) about quantum mechanics without requiring any form of realism about the wave function. We begin by discussing various forms of realism about the wave function, namely Albert’s configuration-space realism, Dürr Zanghi and Goldstein’s nomological realism about Ψ, Esfeld’s dispositional reading of Ψ Pusey Barrett and Rudolph’s realism about the quantum state. By discussing the articulation of these four positions, and their interrelation, we conclude that instrumentalism (...)
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  • On the Common Structure of the Primitive Ontology Approach and the Information-Theoretic Interpretation of Quantum Theory.Lucas Dunlap - 2015 - Topoi 34 (2):359-367.
    We use the primitive ontology framework of Allori et al. to analyze the quantum information-theoretic interpretation of Bub and Pitowsky. There are interesting parallels between the two approaches, which differentiate them both from the more standard realist interpretations of quantum theory. Where they differ, however, is in terms of their commitments to an underlying ontology on which the manifest image of the world supervenes. Employing the primitive ontology framework in this way makes perspicuous the differences between the quantum information-theoretic interpretation, (...)
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  • On the Possibility of a Realist Ontological Commitment in Quantum Mechanics.Andrea Oldofredi & Michael Andreas Esfeld - unknown
    This paper reviews the structure of standard quantum mechanics, introducing the basics of the von Neumann-Dirac axiomatic formulation as well as the well-known Copenhagen interpretation. We review also the major conceptual difficulties arising from this theory, first and foremost, the well-known measurement problem. The main aim of this essay is to show the possibility to solve the conundrums affecting quantum mechanics via the methodology provided by the primitive ontology approach. Using Bohmian mechanics as an example, the paper argues for a (...)
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  • The Intrinsic Structure of Quantum Mechanics.Eddy Keming Chen - unknown
    The wave function in quantum mechanics presents an interesting challenge to our understanding of the physical world. In this paper, I show that the wave function can be understood as four intrinsic relations on physical space. My account has three desirable features that the standard account lacks: it does not refer to any abstract mathematical objects, it is free from the usual arbitrary conventions, and it explains why the wave function has its gauge degrees of freedom, something that are usually (...)
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  • How to Make Sense of Quantum Mechanics : Fundamental Physical Theories and Primitive Ontology.Valia Allori - manuscript
    Quantum mechanics has always been regarded as, at best, puzzling, if not contradictory. The aim of the paper is to explore a particular approach to fundamental physical theories, the one based on the notion of primitive ontology. This approach, when applied to quantum mechanics, makes it a paradox-free theory.
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  • Quantum Theory is Not Only About Information.Laura Felline - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics.
    In his recent book Bananaworld. Quantum mechanics for primates, Jeff Bub revives and provides a mature version of his influential information-theoretic interpretation of Quantum Theory (QT). In this paper, I test Bub’s conjecture that QT should be interpreted as a theory about information, by examining whether his information-theoretic interpretation has the resources to explain (or explain away) quantum conundrums. The discussion of Bub’s theses will also serve to investigate, more in general, whether other approaches succeed in defending the claim that (...)
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  • Scientific Realism Meets Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics.Juha Saatsi - 2017 - In Philosophers Think About Quantum Theory.
    I examine the epistemological debate on scientific realism in the context of quantum physics, focusing on the empirical underdetermin- ation of different formulations and interpretations of QM. I will argue that much of the interpretational, metaphysical work on QM tran- scends the kinds of realist commitments that are well-motivated in the light of the history of science. I sketch a way of demarcating empirically well-confirmed aspects of QM from speculative quantum metaphysics in a way that coheres with anti-realist evidence from (...)
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  • Probabilities in deBroglie-Bohm Theory: Towards a Stochastic Alternative (Version 0.1 Beta).Patrick Dürr & Alexander Ehmann - manuscript
    We critically examine the role and status probabilities, as they enter via the Quantum Equilibrium Hypothesis, play in the standard, deterministic interpretation of deBroglie’s and Bohm’s Pilot Wave Theory (dBBT), by considering interpretations of probabilities in terms of ignorance, typicality and Humean Best Systems, respectively. We argue that there is an inherent conflict between dBBT and probabilities, thus construed. The conflict originates in dBBT’s deterministic nature, rooted in the Guidance Equation. Inquiring into the latter’s role within dBBT, we find it (...)
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