Scientific Realism and Quantum Theories

Yan, Chunling, Philosophy - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Humphreys, Paul

This dissertation centers on some themes in scientific realism and non-relativistic quantum theories, including both standard quantum mechanics and Bohmian mechanics. I take scientific realism in its most general sense to be a view that concerns beliefs about the unobservable aspects of the world. This dissertation aims to provide some new insights into realism about quantum mechanics, recognizing that physicists often take quantum mechanics at an instrumental level for making correct predictions while leaving out discussions on metaphysical and ontological questions. A realist position within the general background of the philosophy of science must respond to some traditional arguments against scientific realism, such as the pessimistic induction problem and the problem of underdetermination. This dissertation focuses on addressing whether a realist position of quantum theories is truly tenable by investigating some ontological issues surrounding quantum physics within the context of the traditional realism/anti-realism debate, using Bohmian mechanics as a test case. Overall, Bohmian mechanics is a defensible realist quantum theory, and in particular, a wave function ontology of Bohmian mechanics is preferable over a primitive ontology of Bohmian mechanics, from both metaphysical and empirical considerations.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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