32 (6):1243-1279 (forthcoming
The question “what is an interpretation?” is often intertwined with the perhaps even harder question “what is a scientific theory?”. Given this proximity, we try to clarify the first question to acquire some ground for the latter. The quarrel between the syntactic and semantic conceptions of scientific theories occupied a large part of the scenario of the philosophy of science in the 20th century. For many authors, one of the two currents needed to be victorious. We endorse that such debate, at least in the terms commonly expressed, can be misleading. We argue that the traditional notion of “interpretation” within the syntax/semantic debate is not the same as that of the debate concerning the interpretation of quantum mechanics. As much as the term is the same, the term “interpretation” as employed in quantum mechanics has its meaning beyond (pure) logic. Our main focus here lies on the formal aspects of the solutions to the measurement problem. There are many versions of quantum theory, many of them incompatible with each other. In order to encompass a wider variety of approaches to quantum theory, we propose a different one with an emphasis on pure formalism. This perspective has the intent of elucidating the role of each so-called “interpretation” of quantum mechanics, as well as the precise origin of the need to interpret it.