Monday, October 11, 2004

Bohr and Quantum Reality

I attended a talk at Penn by Loyola University (New Orleans) philosopher Henry Folse, who is an expert on the thought of physicist Niels Bohr. Like many non-experts, I’ve made the mistake of only acknowledging a simplified version of the Copenhagen interpretation, due to Heisenberg, which says that one must be agnostic about attributing meaning to the nature of the atomic world outside what is learned in the experimental setting.

As Folse pointed out, Bohr had wanted to ascribe a kind of realism to the quantum world, although it would obviously not be like the traditional objective realism of the classical world of matter and energy. As also pointed out in this Stanford encyclopedia entry, Bohr thought in terms of a relational picture of reality. He apparently never fully filled out this metaphysical picture the way a philosopher might have tried to do, but it is interesting that he thought the interactions of QM could be the basis of a real description of reality.

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