, Volume 114, Issue 3, pp 373-404

Time, Quantum Mechanics, and Probability

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Abstract

A variety of ideas arising in decoherence theory, and in the ongoing debate over Everett's relative-state theory, can be linked to issues in relativity theory and the philosophy of time, specifically the relational theory of tense and of identity over time. These have been systematically presented in companion papers (Saunders 1995; 1996a); in what follows we shall consider the same circle of ideas, but specifically in relation to the interpretation of probability, and its identification with relations in the Hilbert Space norm. The familiar objection that Everett's approach yields probabilities different from quantum mechanics is easily dealt with. The more fundamental question is how to interpret these probabilities consistent with the relational theory of change, and the relational theory of identity over time. I shall show that the relational theory needs nothing more than the physical, minimal criterion of identity as defined by Everett's theory, and that this can be transparently interpreted in terms of the ordinary notion of the chance occurrence of an event, as witnessed in the present. It is in this sense that the theory has empirical content.