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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 In this previously unpublished study dating back more than a half a century, Heelan brings his background as both a physicist and a philosopher to his reflections on Werner Heisenberg’s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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Foreword by Babette Babich


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The Observable was finished in 1970, half a decade after the 1965 publication of Patrick Aidan Heelan’s study of Werner Heisenberg’s phenomenological and (as Heelan would later would reflect as inseparably) hermeneutic philosophy of science, originally articulated by way not only of Heisenberg’s theoretical and mathematical thinking of physical science but an interpretative reading of Edmund Husserl’s1 ← XV | XVI → and Martin Heidegger’s philosophies of science, and in Heidegger’s case also of technologies/instruments. Heelan’s Quantum Mechanics and Objectivity2 was unusually path-breaking as Heisenberg was, as Heelan reports, both the subject of the study as well as a philosophical partner in reflective, scientific dialogue. The Observable develops that dialogue, expanded to reflections on Einstein, Bohr, and Schrödinger (with whom Heelan closely worked as an assistant during his years in Dublin) as well as Eugene Wigner (who influenced Heelan during his post-doc years at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton University).

Heelan went on to apply and further develop these theoretical insights in his 1983 study, Space-Perception and the Philosophy of Science.3 As Heelan’s assistant during the writing of Space-Perception and the Philosophy of Science, the current editor learned to bring active hermeneutic and phenomenological principles to bear on the otherwise and still today limitedly analytic profile of professionally received philosophy of science. By the late 1970s and early 1980s a division in philosophy was already beginning to affect the reception of readings...

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