Manifesting the Quantum World
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- Mohrhoff, U. Found Phys (2014) 44: 641. doi:10.1007/s10701-014-9803-3
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In resisting attempts to explain the unity of a whole in terms of a multiplicity of interacting parts, quantum mechanics calls for an explanatory concept that proceeds in the opposite direction: from unity to multiplicity. Being part of the Scientific Image of the world, the theory concerns the process by which (the physical aspect of) what Sellars called the Manifest Image of the world comes into being. This process consists in the progressive differentiation of an intrinsically undifferentiated entity. By entering into reflexive spatial relations, this entity gives rise to (i) what looks like a multiplicity of relata if the reflexive quality of the relations is not taken into account, and (ii) what looks like a substantial expanse if the spatial quality of the relations is reified. If there is a distinctly quantum domain, it is a non-spatial and non-temporal dimension across which the transition from the unity of this entity to the multiplicity of the world takes place. Instead of being constituents of the physical world, subatomic particles, atoms, and molecules are instrumental in its manifestation. These conclusions are based on the following interpretive principle and its more direct consequences: whenever the calculation of probabilities calls for the addition of amplitudes, the distinctions we make between the alternatives lack objective reality. Applied to alternatives involving distinctions between regions of space, this principle implies that, owing to the indefiniteness of positions, the spatiotemporal differentiation of the physical world is incomplete: the existence of a real-valued spatiotemporal background is an unrealistic idealization. This guarantees the existence of observables whose values are real per se, as against “real by virtue of being indicated by the values of observables that are real per se.” Applied to alternatives involving distinctions between things, it implies that, intrinsically, all fundamental particles are numerically identical and thus identifiable with the aforementioned undifferentiated entity.