Logic & Philosophy of Science Colloquium


Robert DiSalle
University of Western Ontario

"On the correct interpretation of a physical theory"


This paper reflects on what is required of a correct interpretation of quantum mechanics. That is to say, it does not defend any of the existing interpretations, nor does it offer a novel interpretation as the correct one. Rather, it considers what sense can be made of the notion that any particular interpretation of the theory, among the many that have been advocated, captures the essential physical content of the theory, and the essential points at which our world departs from the classical picture of it. While this notion seem naïve on its face, in light of ongoing philosophical controversy regarding quantum mechanics, I argue that we do have such a  notion in the case of space-time theories, emerging from the conceptual analyses through which our understanding of space-time has evolved. Therefore it is reasonable to ask whether quantum mechanics is susceptible to a similar analysis, and thus whether a distinction can be made between essentially subjective philosophical perspectives on the theory, and “the theory itself.” I will consider, among other things, what insight is to be gained by applying Einstein’s notion of a “principle theory” to this question, and how the question bears on more general issues in the philosophy of science.

Friday, November 18, 2005
SST 777
3 pm

Refreshments will be served