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The Observable

Heisenberg’s Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics


Patrick Aidan Heelan

Edited By Babette Babich

Patrick Aidan Heelan’s The Observable offers the reader a completely articulated development of his 1965 philosophy of quantum physics, Quantum Mechanics and Objectivity. In this previously unpublished study dating back more than a half a century, Heelan brings his background as both a physicist and a philosopher to his reflections on Werner Heisenberg’s physical philosophy. Including considerably broader connections to the contributions of Niels Bohr, Wolfgang Pauli, and Albert Einstein, this study also reflects Heelan’s experience in Eugene Wigner’s laboratory at Princeton along with his reflections on working with Erwin Schrödinger dating from Heelan’s years at the Institute for Advanced Cosmology in Dublin.
A contribution to continental philosophy of science, the phenomenological and hermeneutic resources applied in this book to the physical and ontological paradoxes of quantum physics, especially in connection with laboratory science and measurement, theory and model making, will enrich students of the history of science as well as those interested in different approaches to the historiography of science. University courses in the philosophy of physics will find this book indispensable as a resource and invaluable for courses in the history of science.
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Patrick Aidan Heelan: Brief Biography Including Select Bibliography


Biographical Note

Patrick Aidan Heelan (17 March 1926–1 February 2015) was born in Dublin, Ireland. He grew up not too far from the Martello Tower in Sandy Cove—names known to readers, of course, from the works of James Joyce, another Dubliner. Heelan attended Belvedere College as a boy and joined the Society of Jesus at 16, taking his B.A. in 1947 and his M.A. in 1948, all with first-class Honors, in both mathematics and mathematical physics at University College, Dublin during which time he also worked with Erwin Schrödinger and John Synge at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, mathematicians famous for their work in General Relativity and Cosmology. In 1948, he won a Travelling Studentship that paid for doctoral studies abroad anywhere in the world. It was his Jesuit superior who directed him to take his doctorate in 1952 in geophysics and seismology at the Institute of Geophysics at St. Louis University as a junior Jesuit scholastic. Ordained in 1957, he taught physics at University College Dublin for several years before being asked by the Archbishop of Dublin to teach the philosophy of science. Patrick Heelan’s sense that he needed more philosophy brought him, in two steps to an encounter, first off with Bernard Lonergan’s 1957 book Insight (starting as he did with the original notes in Latin), and then after a two year post-doc working with Eugene Wigner at Princeton University at the Institute for Advanced Studies (1960–62)...

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