Foundations of Physics

, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 971–985 | Cite as

What makes a theory physically “complete”?

  • Andrew Elby
  • Harvey R. Brown
  • Sara Foster


Three claims about what makes a theory “physically complete” are (1) Shimony's assertion that a complete theory says “all there is to say” about nature; (2) EPR's requirement that a complete theory describe all “elements of reality”; and (3) Ballentine and Jarrett's claim that a “predictively complete” theory must obey a condition used in Bell deviations. After introducing “statistical completeness” as a partial formalization of (1), we explore the logical and motivational relationships connecting these completeness conditions. We find that statistical completeness motivates but does not imply Jarrett's completeness condition, because Jarrett's condition encodes further intuitions about locality and causality. We also dispute Ballentine and Jarrett's claim that EPR-completeness implies Jarrett's completeness condition.


Partial Formalization Complete Theory Completeness Condition Motivational Relationship Bell Deviation 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Elby
    • 1
  • Harvey R. Brown
    • 2
  • Sara Foster
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of California at BerkeleyBerkeley
  2. 2.Subfaculty of Philosophy, 10 Merton St.University of OxfordOxfordUnited Kingdom

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