Niels Bohr's Philosophy of Physics

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This book gives a clear and comprehensive exposition of Niels Bohr's philosophy of physics. Bohr's ideas are of major importance, for they are the source of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics; yet they are obscure, and call for the sort of close analysis that this book provides.

The book describes the historical background of the physics from which Bohr's ideas grew. The core of the book is a detailed analysis of Bohr's arguments for complementarity and of the interpretation which he put upon it. Special emphasis is placed throughout on the contrasting views of Einstein, and the great debate between Bohr and Einstein is thoroughly examined. The book traces the philosophical influences on Bohr, and unravels the realist and anti-realist strands in his thinking. Bohr's philosophy is critically assessed in the light of recent developments in the foundations of quantum physics (the work of Bell and others) and in philosophy (the realism-anti-realism debate) and it is revealed as being much more subtle and sophisticated than it is generally taken to be.

While the book will be of interest to specialists, it is written in a style that will make it accessible to those who have no specialist knowledge of the relevant physics and philosophy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The breadth and clarity of Murdoch's analysis makes this book a worthy addition to Bohrian scholarship." New Scientist

" excellent book on Bohr's philosophy of physics and its relevance for the present debate." Jan Faye, ISIS

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521333207
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/5/1987
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix
1 Wave-particle duality 1
1.1 The quantum hypothesis 1
1.2 Einstein's hypothesis of light-quanta 5
1.3 Wave-particle duality, 1905-10 7
1.4 Wave-particle duality, 1911-22 10
1.5 The Compton effect 12
2 Niels Bohr and wave-particle duality 16
2.1 Bohr and the 'old' quantum theory 16
2.2 Bohr's attitude to the light-quantum hypothesis 19
2.3 Bohr's attitude to the Compton effect 22
2.4 The Bohr--Kramers--Slater theory 23
2.5 The failure of spatio-temporal pictures 29
2.6 Discontinuity and univisualisability 31
3 From duality to complementarity 34
3.1 A matter of waves 34
3.2 Quantum mechanics and the correspondence principle 37
3.3 The continuity-discontinuity duality 44
3.4 The uncertainty principle 46
3.5 Complementarity: summer 1927 54
4 The meaning of complementarity 57
4.1 Wave-particle complementarity and kinematic-dynamic complementarity 58
4.2 Complementarity and consistency 61
4.3 The correlations between the two kinds of complementarity 66
4.4 The ontological significance of wave-particle complementarity 67
4.5 Models and visualisability 71
4.6 Bohr's view of models 74
4.7 A critique of wave-particle complementarity 77
5 The foundations of kinematic-dynamic complementarity 80
5.1 The mutual exclusiveness of kinematic and dynamic properties 80
5.2 The indeterminability of the measurement interaction 85
5.3 The distinction between object and instrument 87
5.4 Wholeness: the integrity of the conditions of observation 90
5.5 The nature of observation 94
5.6 The 'cut' and the classical concepts 97
5.7 The necessity of describing the instrument in classical terms 99
5.8 The microphenomenalist reading 103
5.9 Observation and objectivity 104
5.10 A brief assessment of Bohr's argument 108
6 Bohr's theory of measurement 109
6.1 The objective-values theory of measurement 109
6.2 The measurement problem 112
6.3 The solution to the Bohrian measurement puzzle 114
6.4 Bohr's interpretation of the state vector 118
6.5 Von Neumann's theory of measurement 122
6.6 The subjective theory of measurement 126
6.7 Difficulties with the objective-values theory 128
7 Bohr's theory of properties 134
7.1 The interactive-properties theory 134
7.2 The dispositional-properties theory 135
7.3 The relational-properties theory 137
7.4 The positivist argument for the indefinability thesis 139
7.5 The ontic argument for the indefinability thesis 140
7.6 The semantic argument for the indefinability thesis 145
7.7 The substance of the semantic argument 147
7.8 Difficulties with the strong meaning condition 149
7.9 The logic of the semantic argument 152
8 Einstein versus Bohr 155
8.1 The fifth Solvay Conference, 1927 155
8.2 The sixth Solvay Conference, 1930 157
8.3 Einstein's delayed-choice experiment 161
8.4 The EPR experiment 163
8.5 The EPR argument 165
8.6 Bohr's response to the EPR argument 168
8.7 Einstein's response to Bohr's defence 172
8.8 A preliminary summing-up 175
9 The sequel to the Bohr-Einstein debate 179
9.1 Completeness and hidden states 179
9.2 Completeness and non-locality 181
9.3 The scope of non-locality 185
9.4 Value independence and separability 189
9.5 The Bohrian response to the Bell--Wigner argument 191
9.6 Einstein's philosophy of physics 195
10 Bohr's philosophy of physics 200
10.1 Realism in the interpretation of physics 200
10.2 Bohr and scientific realism 207
10.3 Bohr and empirical realism 210
10.4 A weaker form of realism 213
10.5 The mathematical structure of physical reality 216
10.6 Bohr: an instrumentalistic realist 222
10.7 The philosophical grounds of the indefinability thesis 222
10.8 Hoffding and the historical roots of Bohr's pragmatism 225
10.9 The Kantian elements in Bohr's philosophy 229
10.10 The pragmatist strain 231
11 An appraisal of Bohr's philosophy of physics 236
11.1 Einstein or Bohr? The final verdict 236
11.2 The notions of correspondence and complementarity 243
11.3 Alternatives to Bohr's theory of matter and radiation 245
11.4 Many worlds and quantum logic 248
Notes 259
Index 288
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