Quantum Entanglement, Bohmian Mechanics, and Humean Supervenience

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (3):567-583 (2014)
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David Lewis is a natural target for those who believe that findings in quantum physics threaten the tenability of traditional metaphysical reductionism. Such philosophers point to allegedly holistic entities they take both to be the subjects of some claims of quantum mechanics and to be incompatible with Lewisian metaphysics. According to one popular argument, the non-separability argument from quantum entanglement, any realist interpretation of quantum theory is straightforwardly inconsistent with the reductive conviction that the complete physical state of the world supervenes on the intrinsic properties of and spatio-temporal relations between its point-sized constituents. Here I defend Lewis's metaphysical doctrine, and traditional reductionism more generally, against this alleged threat from quantum holism. After presenting the non-separability argument from entanglement, I show that Bohmian mechanics, an interpretation of quantum mechanics explicitly recognized as a realist one by proponents of the non-separability argument, plausibly rejects a key premise of that argument. Another holistic worry for Humeanism persists, however, the trouble being the apparently holistic character of the Bohmian pilot wave. I present a Humean strategy for addressing the holistic threat from the pilot wave by drawing on resources from the Humean best system account of laws

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Elizabeth Miller
Brown University


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