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Reconstructions of Quantum Theory: Methodology and the Role of Axiomatization

Oddan, Jessica (2024) Reconstructions of Quantum Theory: Methodology and the Role of Axiomatization. [Preprint]


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Reconstructions of quantum theory are a novel research program in theoretical physics which aims to uncover the unique physical features of quantum theory via axiomatization. I focus on Hardy’s “Quantum Theory from Five Reasonable Axioms” (2001), arguing that reconstructions represent a modern usage of axiomatization with significant points of continuity to von Neumann’s axiomatizations in quantum mechanics. In particular, I show that Hardy and von Neumann share similar methodological ordering, have a common operational framing, and insist on the empirical basis of axioms. In the reconstruction programme, interesting points of discontinuity with historical axiomatizations include the stipulation of a generalized space of theories represented by a framework and the stipulation of analytic machinery at two levels of generality (first by establishing a generalized mathematical framework and then by positing specific formulations of axioms). In light of the reconstruction programme, I show that we should understand axiomatization attempts as being context-dependent, context which is contingent upon the goals of inquiry and the maturity of both mathematical formalism and theoretical underpinnings within the area of inquiry. Drawing on Mitsch (2022)’s account of axiomatization, I conclude that reconstructions should best be understood as provisional, practical, representations of quantum theory that are well suited for theory development and exploration. However, I propose my context-dependent re-framing of axiomatization as a means of enriching Mitsch’s account.

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Item Type: Preprint
Keywords: axiomatization; quantum theory; reconstructions; methodology of physics
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics
Depositing User: Jessica Oddan
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2024 18:34
Last Modified: 09 Apr 2024 18:34
Item ID: 23276
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics
Date: March 2024

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