Show Less
Restricted access

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 In this previously unpublished study dating back more than a half a century, Heelan brings his background as both a physicist and a philosopher to his reflections on Werner Heisenberg’s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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter Eight: Complementarity


| 63 →



Bohr’s view on the quantum theory has been well discussed and analyzed by a number of writers, among them Petersen, Meyer-Abich, Feyerabend, Bunge, Heelan and others.1

Bohr’s first major address on complementarity, given at Como in September 1927, covered the same ground as Heisenberg’s paper on the Uncertainty Relations.2 It was both an essay in the philosophy of nature and an attempt to propose a quantum theoretic paradigm. The two main elements of Bohr’s 1927 Como ← 63 | 64 → lecture are (i) the wholeness of the quantum phenomenon, and (ii) the closure of quantum phenomena.3

(i) The wholeness of the quantum phenomenon is the indivisibility of observer and observed. This indivisibility has a physical sense (denying the existence of a precise physical boundary between the observer and the observed), and a logical and epistemological sense (denying that an observed predicate has a definite meaning unless related to an observer). Physical indivisibility results from the union of object and instrument through indivisible quanta of energy in the measuring-process.

The physical indivisibility of observer and observed leads to the mutually exclusive (i.e., complementary) character of two kinds of descriptions (a) localized space-time coordinatization that supposes the system is being ‘observed’ and described in classical particle language; and (b) causality or the law-like development of the isolated system in time under the laws of conservation of momentum and energy when the system is not being ‘observed.’4...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.