1st Edition

Quantum Theory and the Flight from Realism Philosophical Responses to Quantum Mechanics

By Christopher Norris Copyright 2000

    This book is a critical introduction to the long-standing debate concerning the conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics and the problems it has posed for physicists and philosophers from Einstein to the present. Quantum theory has been a major infulence on postmodernism, and presents significant problems for realists. Keeping his own realist position in check, Christopher Norris subjects a wide range of key opponents and supporters of realism to a high and equal level of scrutiny. With a characteristic combination of rigour and intellectual generosity, he draws out the merits and weaknesses from opposing arguments. In a sequence of closely argued chapters, Norris examines the premises of orthodox quantum theory, as developed most influentially by Bohr and Heisenberg, and its impact on varous philosophical developments. These include the ideas developed by W.V Quine, Thomas Kuhn, Michael Dummett, Bas van Fraassen, and Hilary Puttnam. In each case, Norris argues, these thinkers have been influenced by the orthodox construal of quantum mechanics as requiring drastic revision of principles which had hitherto defined the very nature of scientific method, causal explanati and rational enquiry. Putting the case for a realist approach which adheres to well-tried scientific principles of causal reasoning and inference to the best explanation, Christopher Norris clarifies these debates to a non-specialist readership and scholars of philosophy, science studies and the philosophy of science alike. Quantum Theory and the Flight From Realism suggests that philosophical reflection can contribute to a better understanding of these crucial, current issues.

    Introduction; Chapter 1 Is it possible to be a realist about quantum mechanics?; Chapter 2 Quantum theory and the logic of anti-realism; Chapter 3 Bell, Bohm and the EPR debate; Chapter 4 Quantum worlds without end; Chapter 5 Should philosophers take lessons from quantum theory?; Chapter 6 Putnam’s progress; Chapter 7 Can logic be quantum-relativized?; Chapter 8 From Copenhagen to the stars;


    Christopher Norris is Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy at the University of Cardiff. He is the author of many books on aspects of philosophy and critical theory, among them, most recently, Reclaiming Truth: Contribution to a Critique of Cultural Relativism, Resources of Realism: Prospects for ‘Post-Analytic’ Philosophy’, New Idols of the Cave: On the Limits of Anti-Realism, and Against Relativism: Philosophy of Science, Deconstruction and Critical Theory. His current research interests are in epistemology and philosophy of science.