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Epistemology and Probability

by Arkady Plotnitsky

The book offers an exploration of the relationships between epistemology and probability in the work of Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schrödinger; in quantum mechanics; and in modern physics as a whole. It also considers the implications of these relationships and of quantum theory itself for our understanding of the nature of thinking and knowledge in general. These implications are radical and controversial. While they have been seen as scientifically productive and intellectually liberating to some, Bohr and Heisenberg among them, they have been troublesome to many others, beginning with Schrödinger and, most famously, Einstein, who refused to believe that God would resort to playing dice, as quantum theory appeared to demand. The situation led to an intense debate, in particular the great confrontation between Einstein and Bohr, which began around the time of the discovery of quantum mechanics by Heisenberg and Schrödinger in 1920s and has overshadowed the history of the debate concerning quantum mechanics ever since. The controversy itself surrounding quantum theory and the intensity of the debate concerning it have remained undiminished. No end appears to be in sight. At the same time, in spite of the enormous and ever proliferating amount of commentaries in all genres (technical, philosophical, and popular), some of the deeper philosophical aspects of quantum mechanics and of the philosophical thought of the figures considered in this study often remain explored. The main aim of this book is to contribute to a better understanding of the nature of quantum-theoretical thinking and of the reasons for this extraordinary impact and controversy. Philosophically, the book pursues this task by bringing together in a new way the relationships between epistemology and probability in quantum theory and beyond. Historically, it does so by engaging comprehensively and in a mutually illuminating way with the work of all three key figures responsible for the birth of quantum mechanics - Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and, as concerns quantum epistemology, Bohr - which has not be previously done in literature on quantum mechanics. Among other key contributions of the book is an analysis of the role of mathematics in quantum theory and in the thinking of Bohr, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger; a new treatment of the famous experiment of Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen (EPR) and of the Bohr-Einstein exchange concerning it; and an exploration of the implications of the epistemological problematics considered by the book for new developments of quantum mechanics itself, such as quantum information theory, on the one hand, and, on the other, for higher-level physical theories, from quantum field theory to string/brane theories and new cosmological theories.

Mathematics, Science, and Postclassical Theory

by Barbara Herrnstein Smith Arkady Plotnitsky

Mathematics, Science, and Postclassical Theory is a unique collection of essays dealing with the intersections between science and mathematics and the radical reconceptions of knowledge, language, proof, truth, and reality currently emerging from poststructuralist literary theory, constructivist history and sociology of science, and related work in contemporary philosophy. Featuring a distinguished group of international contributors, this volume engages themes and issues central to current theoretical debates in virtually all disciplines: agency, causality, determinacy, representation, and the social dynamics of knowledge. In a substantive introductory essay, the editors explain the notion of "postclassical theory" and discuss the significance of ideas such as emergence and undecidability in current work in and on science and mathematics. Other essays include a witty examination of the relations among mathematical thinking, writing, and the technologies of virtual reality; an essay that reconstructs the conceptual practices that led to a crucial mathematical discovery--or construction--in the 19th century; a discussion of the implications of Bohr's complementarity principle for classical ideas of reality; an examination of scientific laboratories as "hybrid" communities of humans and nonhumans; an analysis of metaphors of control, purpose, and necessity in contemporary biology; an exploration of truth and lies, and the play of words and numbers in Shakespeare, Frege, Wittgenstein, and Beckett; and a final chapter on recent engagements, or nonengagements, between rationalist/realist philosophy of science and contemporary science studies. Contributors. Malcolm Ashmore, Michel Callon, Owen Flanagan, John Law, Susan Oyama, Andrew Pickering, Arkady Plotnitsky, Brian Rotman, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, John Vignaux Smyth, E. Roy Weintraub

Niels Bohr and Complementarity

by Arkady Plotnitsky

This book offers a discussion of Niels Bohr's conception of "complementarity," arguably his greatest contribution to physics and philosophy. By tracing Bohr's work from his 1913 atomic theory to the introduction and then refinement of the idea of complementarity, and by explicating different meanings of "complementarity" in Bohr and the relationships between it and Bohr's other concepts, the book aims to offer a contained and accessible, and yet sufficiently comprehensive account of Bohr's work on complementarity and its significance.

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