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Feyerabend on the quantum theory of measurement: A reassessment

Kuby, Daniel and Fraser, Patrick (2021) Feyerabend on the quantum theory of measurement: A reassessment. [Preprint]

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Abstract

In 1957, Feyerabend delivered a paper titled “On the quantum‐theory of measurement” at the Colston Research Symposium in Bristol to sketch a completion of von Neumann’s measurement scheme without collapse, using only unitary quantum dynamics and well‐motivated statistical assumptions about macroscopic quantum systems. Feyerabend’s paper has been recognized as an early contribution to quantum measurement, anticipating certain aspects of decoherence. Our paper reassesses the physical and philosophical content of Feyerabend’s contribution, detailing the technical steps as well as its overall philosophical motivations and consequences. Summarizing our results, Feyerabend interpreted collapse as a positivist assumption in quantum mechanics leading to a strict distinction between the uninterpreted formalism of unitary evolution in quantum mechanics and the classically interpreted observational language describing post‐measurement outcomes. Thus, Feyerabend took his the no‐collapse completion of the von Neumann measurement scheme to shows the dispensability of the positivist assumption, leading the way to a realistic interpretation of quantum theory. We note, however, that there are substantial problems with his account of measurement that bring into question its viability as a legitimate foil to the orthodox view. We further argue that his dissatisfaction with the von Neumann measurement scheme is indicative of early views on theoretical pluralism.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Kuby, Daniel0000-0002-7779-7500
Fraser, PatrickThomas
Keywords: projection postulate, collapse of the wave function, thermodynamics approach, FAPP, no-collapse interpretations, Paul Feyerabend
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Logical Positivism/Logical Empiricism
General Issues > Operationalism/Instrumentalism
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Dr. Daniel Kuby
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2021 15:57
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2021 15:57
Item ID: 20036
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Logical Positivism/Logical Empiricism
General Issues > Operationalism/Instrumentalism
General Issues > Philosophers of Science
Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: December 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20036

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