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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 In this previously unpublished study dating back more than a half a century, Heelan brings his background as both a physicist and a philosopher to his reflections on Werner Heisenberg’s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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Chapter Five: Search for a Paradigm


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Search for a Paradigm

Throughout the early part of 1927, Heisenberg and Bohr, each in his own way, tried to provide an intuitively satisfying foundation for the quantum theory. This was more a psychological or psychosocial one than a philosophical one. Heisenberg’s approach from the start had been in the Western tradition of the philosophy of nature that was based on a search for the ideal core of human experience. The psychological or psychosocial problem which now dominated the situation was a different one. It might be described as a search for a new scientific paradigm.1 A paradigm is a set of models for scientific investigations of a certain kind, models that serve to apprentice a newcomer to the art of scientific investigation by having him re-do, in fact or demonstration, the basic experiments in the field. A paradigm then is more than a set of objective scientific laws or a set of explicit experimental instructions. It consists in habits of thinking, feeling, and acting engendered in a member of the scientific community by having been apprenticed to that community, by having used approved text books, by having come to understand scientific ← 43 | 44 → theory sufficiently to solve the set of standard problems which play the role of model objective scientific investigations for this community. A paradigm then is a certain quality of a social context in which esthetic norms and traditions combine with explicit rational norms in the...

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