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Title: A Platonic Defence of Realism in Quantum Theory
Author: Spencer, John Halley
ISNI:       0000 0001 3474 4989
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2007
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In this thesis, contrary to the common assumption that quantum theory is positivist and antirealist, I argue that it is best understood as being Platonic. There has been a constant confusion of terms whereby realism has been equated with materialism and determinism, so that the denial of these metaphysical notions has led to the false conclusion that quantum theory is antirealist. However, there are many different uses of the terms 'realism', 'antirealism' and 'idealism'. When such confusion has been clarified and we have taken seriously the philosophical views of the founders of quantum theory coupled with appropriate metaphysical reasoning, we can understand how the new physics still presupposes and implies the truth of essential aspects of Platonism. Two important examples are that physics (classical and quantum) presupposes the notion of a unified, hierarchically ordered universe, and that what is most real or fundamental in physics is the ideal. The ideal laws of physics must have some sort of existence (or being) prior to their discovery, and the best explanation for their ontological status and our access to them is to be found in Platonic realism. The basic realist assumption that we discover nonphysical objective truths has rarely in the contemporary literature been given a serious metaphysical defence. The ontological and epistemological difficulties permeating the underlying.assumption that an apparently physical, finite, and perpetually changing sentient creature can have access to nonphysical, eternal, and constant truths (whether in the mathematical laws of physics or morality) are almost ubiquitously ignored. Such a denial unavoidably leads to irresolvable conceptual dilemmas, which become obvious in the philosophical and empirical foundations of quantum theory. We are thus justified in demanding a philosophical defence, and I argue that only a properly understood Platonic metaphysics is capable of such a formidable task. . I challenge many nai've implicit assumptions in both contemporary analytic philosophy and the common experience of the experimental physicist who completely relies upon the pioneering work of the great physicists, from the founders of modern science four hundred years ago to Einstein, Planck, Heisenberg, Bohr, Schrodinger, and Pauli among others. It is only through understanding that such eminent pioneers were necessarily involved with deep metaphysical questions while developing the new physics that we can begin to appreciate and come to understand the various conceptual difficulties in quantum theory. It is a reasonable presumption that without such philosophical understanding, fundamental advances in the sciences will not be possible and pure research will dwindle. And without pure research, applied research will sooner or later be essentially nonexistent, or completely trivial. Supplied by The British Library - 'The world's knowledge'
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available