Essays on the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics

Dissertation, Rutgers University, New Brunswick (2019)
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What is the proper metaphysics of quantum mechanics? In this dissertation, I approach the question from three different but related angles. First, I suggest that the quantum state can be understood intrinsically as relations holding among regions in ordinary space-time, from which we can recover the wave function uniquely up to an equivalence class (by representation and uniqueness theorems). The intrinsic account eliminates certain conventional elements (e.g. overall phase) in the representation of the quantum state. It also dispenses with first-order quantification over mathematical objects, which goes some way towards making the quantum world safe for a nominalistic metaphysics suggested in Field (1980, 2016). Second, I argue that the fundamental space of the quantum world is the low-dimensional physical space and not the high-dimensional space isomorphic to the ``configuration space.'' My arguments are based on considerations about dynamics, empirical adequacy, and symmetries of the quantum mechanics. Third, I show that, when we consider quantum mechanics in a time-asymmetric universe (with a large entropy gradient), we obtain new theoretical and conceptual possibilities. In such a model, we can use the low-entropy boundary condition known as the Past Hypothesis (Albert, 2000) to pin down a natural initial quantum state of the universe. However, the universal quantum state is not a pure state but a mixed state, represented by a density matrix that is the normalized projection onto the Past Hypothesis subspace. This particular choice has interesting consequences for Humean supervenience, statistical mechanical probabilities, and theoretical unity.

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Eddy Keming Chen
University of California, San Diego


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