Philosophy and Logic of Quantum Physics

An Investigation of the Metaphysical and Logical Implications of Quantum Physics

by Jan Philipp Dapprich (Author) Annika Schuster (Author)
©2016 Thesis 134 Pages


The book investigates the ontology and logic of quantum physics. The first part discusses the relationship of theory and observation and different views on the ontological status of scientific theories. It introduces the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and some of its interpretations and their compatibility with various ontological positions. In the second part, implications of quantum mechanics on classical logic, especially on the distributive law and bivalence, as discussed by Garrett Birkhoff & John von Neumann (1936) and Hilary Putnam (1968), and their counterarguments are reconstructed and discussed. It is concluded that classical logic is sufficient for dealing with quantum mechanical propositions.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Joint Foreword
  • Part 1: Theory and Observation in Quantum Physics
  • 1. Introduction
  • Part I. Theory and Observation
  • 2. The Relationship between Theory and Observation
  • 3. Classification of Terms and Sentences
  • 3.1 Empirical Terms
  • 3.1.1 Observational Terms and Ostensive Learnability
  • 3.1.2 Empirical Disposition Terms
  • 3.2 Theoretical Terms
  • 3.2.1 Theoretical Terms in the Broad Sense
  • 3.2.2 Theoretical Terms in the Narrow Sense
  • 3.3 Classification of Statements
  • 4. Theory (In-)dependence
  • 4.1 Theory (In-)dependence of Observational Language
  • 4.2 Theory (In-)dependence of Observation
  • 4.3 Linguistic Relativism
  • 5. Ontological Status of Scientific Theories
  • 5.1 Realism and Antirealism
  • 5.2 Kinds of (Anti-)Realism
  • 5.2.1 Fundamental Positions
  • 5.2.2 Advanced Positions
  • 5.3 The Case against Solipsism
  • 5.4 The Case against Metaphysical Realism
  • 5.5 The Case against Radical Constructivism
  • 5.6 The Case for and against Constructive Realism
  • 5.6.1 Inference of the Best Explanation
  • 5.6.2 Pessimistic Meta-Induction
  • 5.6.3 Intertheoretical Correspondence
  • 5.6.4 Justification of Abduction according to Schurz
  • 5.6.5 The Logical Positivist Objection
  • 5.7 Towards a Modern Radical Empiricism
  • 5.7.1 The Independence of Theory
  • 5.7.2 Observational Language as Ostensively Learnable Language
  • 5.7.3 The Limited Theory-Ladeness of Observational Language
  • 5.7.4 Literalness of Theories
  • Part II. Basics of Quantum Physics
  • 6. The Classical Picture of the World
  • 7. Experimental Basis of Quantum Physics
  • 8. The Quantum Explanation
  • 8.1 Wave-Particle Duality
  • 8.2 Schrödinger Equation and Born Rule
  • 8.3 Observables
  • 8.4 Einstein-Podolski-Rosen Paradox and Quantum Entanglement
  • 9. No-go Theorems
  • 9.1 Bell’s Theorem
  • 9.2 Kochen-Specker Theorem
  • 10. Interpretations
  • 10.1 Schrödinger’s cat
  • 10.2 Subjectivist Interpretations
  • 10.3 Objective-Collapse Interpretations
  • 10.4 Modal Interpretations
  • 10.5 Many-Worlds Interpretation
  • 10.6 Hidden-Variable Interpretations
  • 10.7 Operational Approach
  • Part III. Reflections on Quantum Physics
  • 11. Theory and Observation in Quantum Physics
  • 11.1 Observables and Observation
  • 11.2 Theory or Interpretation?
  • 11.3 Theory and Ontology
  • 11.4 Structural Correspondences of Interpretations
  • 12. Is Quantum Physics Acceptable?
  • 12.1 Indeterminism
  • 12.2 Value Definiteness
  • 12.3 Measurement Problem
  • 13. Ontology of Quantum Physics
  • 13.1 Value Definiteness and Ontology
  • 13.2 Interpretations and Ontology
  • 13.2.1 Subjectivist Interpretations
  • 13.2.2 Objective-Collapse Interpretations
  • 13.2.3 Modal Interpretations
  • 13.2.4 Many-Worlds Interpretation
  • 13.2.5 Hidden-Variable Interpretations
  • 13.2.6 Operational Approach
  • 13.2.7 Interpretations and Ontological Parsimony
  • 13.3 Literalness and the Challenge of Quantum Gravity
  • 14. Conclusion
  • References
  • Part 2: Quantum Logic
  • Introduction
  • 1. Fundamentals of Classical Logic and Quantum Mechanics
  • 1.1 Peculiarities of Quantum Mechanics
  • 1.2 Classical Logic
  • 2. Quantum logic and the distributive law
  • 2.1 Birkhoff and von Neumann’s argument
  • 2.1.1 Popper’s criticism
  • 2.1.2 Schurz’s criticism
  • 2.2 Putnams’s argument
  • 2.2.1 Dummett’s criticism
  • 2.2.2 Stachel’s criticism
  • 2.3 Conclusion on the distributive law
  • 3. Meaning and bivalence in Putnam’s quantum logical system
  • 3.1 Invariance of meaning
  • 3.2 Bivalence
  • 4. Conclusion
  • References
  • Joint Conclusion

← 12 | 11 →

Joint Foreword

(by Jan Philipp Dapprich and Annika Schuster)

The evidence and background theory of quantum mechanics have raised questions among both physicists and philosophers resulting on the one hand in several interpretations of the theory and on the other hand in logical systems which are to reflect its unique structure. Its radical consequences such as indeterminism with regard to measurable, but incompatible, quantities and value indefiniteness provided philosophers with empirical evidence for arguments against realism and classical logic. In the two parts of this book we provide an overview over the interpretations of quantum mechanics as well as some of the quantum logical arguments and investigate the implications of quantum mechanics on ontology and classical logic.

The book is designed for readers without background knowledge in neither quantum mechanics nor logic and ontology. Each part begins with an introduction covering the phenomena needed for our philosophical analysis. But it surely would go beyond the scope of this book to review all the details in all the disciplines, which is why it will probably be more accessible with some foundations in these areas.

The two parts of this book can be read independent from each other as they are based on our Master’s resp. Bachelor’s thesis which we handed in at the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf.

The first part by Jan Philipp Dapprich is called “Theory and Observation in Quantum Physics”. It is divided into three parts. The first part gives an introduction to the relationship between theory and observation and proposes a classification of terms and sentences. Then it discusses the theory dependence of observation and observational language and provides an overview of the various standpoints with regard to the ontological status of scientific theories. The second part introduces the aspects and interpretations of quantum mechanics relevant to the philosophical analysis in the third part. Three fundamental questions are discussed as part of this analysis: a) what kind of relationship there is between theory and observation in quantum mechanics, b) whether quantum mechanics is an acceptable theory, and c) which ontological status can be assigned to quantum mechanics. ← 11 | 12 →

The second part by Annika Schuster is called “Quantum Logic” and is divided into three chapters. The first chapter comprises a review of the fundamentals of classical logic and quantum mechanics necessary for the philosophical analysis. The second chapter discusses arguments for the invalidity of the distributive law in quantum logic based on quantum-mechanical considerations and their defeaters. The third chapter examines Hilary Putnam’s approach to quantum logic and the implications regarding meaning and bivalence which he derived from his approach more closely.

Although the two parts of the book were written independently, our conclusions are in a way similar: We both concluded that there seems to be no need to introduce a new ontology or logic in the light of the findings of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics seems to be compatible both with a classical ontology and classical logic.

← 12 | 13 →

Part 1:  Theory and Observation in Quantum Physics

← 13 | 14 →

← 14 | 15 →

1.  Introduction

Quantum physics constitutes one of the major developments in physics during the 20th century and remains current to this day. Ever since the first advancements by the early pioneers of quantum mechanics, it has been the subject of great controversy, often touching on questions of philosophy. Here we will pay particular attention to the relevance of discussions in philosophy regarding the concepts of theory and observation to quantum physics.

The first part will introduce a classification of theoretical and observational terms and sentences following Schurz (2013), and will discuss various problems regarding theory and observation. In particular, we will try to understand the age-old discussion between realism and anti-realism as a question of the reference of theory. We will dismiss several ontological positions and lay out some cornerstones for a new radical empiricist view.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (December)
Distributive Law Bivalence Double-slit experiment
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 134 pp., 5 tables, 14 graphs

Biographical notes

Jan Philipp Dapprich (Author) Annika Schuster (Author)

Jan Philipp Dapprich studied physics and philosophy at Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf. Annika Schuster studied philosophy at Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf.


Title: Philosophy and Logic of Quantum Physics
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136 pages