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On the Common Structure of the Primitive Ontology Approach and the Information-Theoretic Interpretation of Quantum Theory

Abstract

We use the primitive ontology framework of Allori et al. to analyze the quantum information-theoretic interpretation of Bub and Pitowsky. There are interesting parallels between the two approaches, which differentiate them both from the more standard realist interpretations of quantum theory. Where they differ, however, is in terms of their commitments to an underlying ontology on which the manifest image of the world supervenes. Employing the primitive ontology framework in this way makes perspicuous the differences between the quantum information-theoretic interpretation, and the various realist interpretations of quantum theory. It also allows us to identify a sense in which the commitments of quantum information-theoretic interpretation are underspecified. Several possible ways of completing the interpretation are presented, and it is suggested that the most likely strategy would leave the information-theoretic interpretation such that it would fail to qualify as a theory, according to the primitive ontology approach.

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Notes

  1. It is important to note that since the GRW\(_0\) theory does not include particles in three-dimensional space in its picture of the world, the space in which the wavefunction evolves is not actually a configuration space of N particles. However, the space on which the wave function is defined has a dimensionality equal to 3N, and is effectively identical to a configuration space of N particles.

  2. These “information sources” and “communication channels” should not be taken as a proposed fundamental ontology. Rather, the claim is that the content of quantum theory is information-theoretic, and asking after a deeper ontology is immaterial to the discoveries of quantum theory.

  3. Even if there is such an implicit ontology, QIT would still fail to be consistent with the PO approach, as PO requires the explicit statement of the assumed ontology in the formulation of the theory.

  4. It is worth nothing here that Bub and Pitowsky disavow the ‘It-from-bit’ position, which claims that immaterial information gives rise to the material world.

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Dunlap, L. On the Common Structure of the Primitive Ontology Approach and the Information-Theoretic Interpretation of Quantum Theory. Topoi 34, 359–367 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-015-9329-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-015-9329-0

Keywords

  • Primitive ontology
  • Quantum information
  • Interpretations of quantum theory
  • Metaphysics of physics