How Humean is Bohumianism?

Foundations of Physics (10):1-18 (2020)
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An important part of the influential Humean doctrine in philosophy is the supervenience principle (sometimes referred to as the principle of separability). This principle asserts that the complete state of the world supervenes on the intrinsic properties of its most fundamental components and their spatiotemporal relations (the so-called Humean mosaic). There are well-known arguments in the literature purporting to show that in quantum mechanics the Humean supervenience principle is violated, due to the existence of entangled states. Recently, however, arguments have been presented to the effect that the supervenience principle can be defended in Bohmian mechanics. The key element of this strategy lies in the observation that according to Bohmian mechanics the fundamental facts about particles are facts about their spatial locations, and moreover, for any proper subsystem of the world its state may non-trivially depend on the spatial configuration of the rest of the universe. Thus quantum-mechanical states of subsystems do not represent their intrinsic properties but rather characterize their relations with the environment. In this paper we point out the worry that this Bohmian strategy --known as Bohumianism-- saves the letter but not the spirit of the Humean doctrine of supervenience, since it prima facie violates another seemingly important Humean principle, which we call Strong Supervenience and whose denial implies the existence of necessary connections among distinct individuals. We argue that the best defense for Bohumians is to question the fundamental existence of complex physical systems and their states by treating any reference to them as a convenient description of the underlying collection of Bohmian particles. We consider several pros and cons of this strategy.

Author Profiles

Antonio Vassallo
Warsaw University of Technology
Tomasz Bigaj
University of Warsaw


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