Quantum metaphysical indeterminacy

  • Claudio Calosi
  • Jessica WilsonEmail author


On a wide variety of presently live interpretations, quantum mechanics violates the classical supposition of ‘value definiteness’, according to which the properties (‘observables’) of a given particle or system have precise values at all times. Here we consider whether two recent approaches to metaphysical indeterminacy—a metaphysical supervaluationist account, on the one hand, and a determinable-based account, on the other—can provide an intelligible basis for quantum metaphysical indeterminacy (QMI), understood as involving quantum value indefiniteness. After identifying three sources of such QMI, we show that previous arguments (Darby in Australas J Philos 88:227–245, 2010; Skow in Philos Q 60:851–858, 2010) according to which supervaluationism cannot accommodate QMI are unsuccessful; we then provide more comprehensive arguments for this conclusion, which moreover establish that the problems for supervaluationism extend far beyond the orthodox interpretation. We go on to argue that a determinable-based approach can accommodate the full range of sources of QMI.


Quantum mechanics Metaphysical indeterminacy Quantum indeterminacy Metaphysical supervaluationism Determinable-based metaphysical indeterminacy 



Thanks to audience members at talks on this topic given at the ‘Metaphysics of Quantity’ conference (NYU, 2015), the Arizona Ontology Conference (2016), the Jowett Society (Oxford, 2016), an eidos seminar in Metaphysics (University of Geneva, 2016), the ‘Kinds of Indeterminacy’ workshop (University of Geneva, 2016), and the Philosophy of Physics seminar at the Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficos (UNAM, 2018). Thanks also to Nina Emery for her excellent AOC comments, and to Alisa Bokulich, Eddy Chen, Heather Demarest, Catharine Diehl, Benj Hellie, Michael Miller, Alyssa Ney, Elias Okon, Alessandro Torza, Johanna Wolff, and students in Wilson’s ‘Varieties of Indeterminacy’ seminar (2018) for helpful discussion. Finally, thanks to the Swiss National Science Foundation (Project Numbers BSCGIo_157792 and 100012_165738) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for funding support.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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