COLLAPSE V45612345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031Catren – Quantum Dice45712345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031In this way, physicists seem forced to accept that they cannot abstract from the
role that their measuring instruments play in experimental inquiry. This means that quantum systems seem to be inherently
, that is to say we cannot separate their properties from the experi-mental contexts that constitute them as systems. The quantum realm that underlies our everyday object-oriented macroscopic experience is a kind of uncanny domain peopled with weird, shadowy entities that assume deﬁnite properties only when they are observed, that ‘decide’ to behave like waves or particles depending on the experimen-tal setup, and so on. In Kantian terms, we could say that quantum systems seem to conform to our faculty of experi-mental intuition. If classical mechanics is supposed to rely on a classical ontology of observer-independent physical objects endowed with intrinsic objective properties, quantum formalism seems to forbid any ontological extrapolation in terms of decontextualised physical objects. Employing Popper’s characterisation of the so-called Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, we might say ‘that quantum mechanics does not represent [physical systems], but rather our knowledge, our observations, or our con-sciousness, of [physical systems]’.
Instead of pushing our comprehension of nature’s rational structure further than
‘Properties of quantum systems have no absolute meaning. Rather, they must be always characterised with respect to other physical systems. Correlations between the properties of quantum systems are more basic that the properties themselves.’ C. Rovelli, ‘Relational quantum mechanics’,
International Journal of Theoretical Physics
35, 1996, 1675. See also F. Laudisa & C. Rovelli, ‘Relational Quantum Mechanics’, in Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(Fall 2008 Edition), at http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/qmrelational/.6. K. Popper,
Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics
(Cambridge: Unwin Hyman, 1982), 35. (Popper writes of ‘particles’ rather than ‘physical systems’).
as expressing the constraints and bounds of (experimental) knowledge. This is very much in the spirit of Kant, if not in the letter of his original texts.
In classical mechanics, the exact position and the exact momentum (roughly speaking, the velocity) of a particle can be simultaneously predicted for all times from a given set of initial conditions. In quantum mechanics, on the contrary, we cannot predict the momentum of a particle characterised by a well-deﬁned position (and vice versa). More generally, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that certain pairs of variables can be simultaneously predicted only up to some inversely-correlated uncertainties. It is therefore tempting to try to localise the transcendental a priori structures (instrumental, pragmatic, cognitive, linguistic, etc.) that are at the origin of this supposed limitation. According to this ‘Kantian’ strategy, quantum mechanics seems to show that it is impossible to go through the ‘transcendental’ looking-glass towards a hypothetical ‘nature-in-itself’ inhabited by systems with intrinsic properties. Rather, quantum mechanics seems to provide a mathematical account of the correlations between the ‘observed’ systems and their (not necessarily human) ‘observers’.
4. M. Bitbol et al.,
Introduction to Constituting Objectivity: Transcendental Approaches of Modern Physics
, op.cit, 17-18.5. It is worth remarking that the thesis according to which quantum mechanics only describes correlations between physical systems does not necessarily entail that there exist impassable limits to the knowledge of nature. For example, the so-called ‘relational’ interpretations of quantum mechanics maintain that the notion of an isolated system with ‘absolute’ properties is meaningless. We could say that this strategy amounts – in a Hegelian style – to avoiding anthropomorphic interpretations of the quantum ‘limitations’ by ontologizing the correlations and doing away with any phantomatic ‘thing-in-itself’. Hence, relational quantum mechanics cannot be considered a transcendental interpretation of the theory. These relational interpretations could be summarised by means of the following claims: