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The End of a Classical Ontology for Quantum Mechanics?

Evans, Peter W (2020) The End of a Classical Ontology for Quantum Mechanics? Entropy, 23 (1). p. 12. ISSN 1099-4300


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In this paper, I argue that the Shrapnel--Costa no-go theorem undermines the last remaining viability of the view that the fundamental ontology of quantum mechanics is essentially classical: that is, the view that physical reality is underpinned by objectively real, counterfactually definite, uniquely spatiotemporally defined, local, dynamical entities with determinate valued properties, and where typically `quantum' behaviour emerges as a function of our own in-principle ignorance of such entities. Call this view Einstein--Bell realism. One can show that the causally symmetric local hidden variable approach to interpreting quantum theory is the most natural interpretation that follows from Einstein--Bell realism, where causal symmetry plays a significant role in circumventing the nonclassical consequences of the traditional no-go theorems. However, Shrapnel and Costa argue that exotic causal structures, such as causal symmetry, are incapable of explaining quantum behaviour as arising as a result of noncontextual ontological properties of the world. This is particularly worrying for Einstein--Bell realism and classical ontology. In the first instance, the obvious consequence of the theorem is a straightforward rejection of Einstein--Bell realism. However, more than this, I argue that, even where there looks to be a possibility of accounting for contextual ontic variables within a causally symmetric framework, the cost of such an account undermines a key advantage of causal symmetry: that accepting causal symmetry is more economical than rejecting a classical ontology. Either way, it looks like we should give up on classical ontology.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Evans, Peter
Keywords: causal symmetry; classical ontology; quantum foundations; contextuality; ontological models framework
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
Depositing User: Dr. Peter W. Evans
Date Deposited: 30 Dec 2020 15:21
Last Modified: 30 Dec 2020 15:21
Item ID: 18545
Journal or Publication Title: Entropy
Publisher: MDPI
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.3390/e23010012
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
Date: 24 December 2020
Page Range: p. 12
Volume: 23
Number: 1
ISSN: 1099-4300

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