Quantum Theory

A Philosopher's Overview

By Salvator Cannavo

Subjects: Philosophy Of Science, Science And Technology, Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791493489, 188 pages, January 2010
Hardcover : 9780791493472, 188 pages, March 2009

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Table of contents

1. Quantum and Classical Theories: A Crucial Difference of Theory-Type
Quantum Theory
Classical Theory
The “Unfinished” Quantum Theory
2. Quantum Puzzles: A Clash with the Traditional Realism of Natural Science
The Core Formalism
The Hypostatization of the Core Formalism
The Nondeterministic Part of the Quantum Formalism
Wave-Particle Duality in Quantum Experiments
The Measurement Problem
The Projection Postulate; Wave Collapse
3. More Quantum Puzzles
Quantum Uncertainty
Virtual Pair Production
Phase Entanglement
Quantum-Theoretic Description and Completeness
Bell’s Inequality: The Unyielding Challenge to Traditional Scientific Realism
4. Interpretation
The Problem of Interpretation: Old and Persistent
Objective Realism in Physical Science
Hidden Variable Interpretations: Highly Problematic
Copenhagenism: No Less Problematic
5. Fresh Starts
The Many Worlds Interpretation: New and Old Problems
The Many Minds Interpretation: More Problems
Decoherence Theory: Somewhat Promising
GRW Theory
Interpretation in a Fuller Sense: Ontic Interpretation
6. Explanatory and Algorithmic Nomologicals: Of Which Kind is Quantum Theory?
Nomological Types
Scientific Explanation
Causation and Explanation
Quantum Theory; Born Algorithmic
Settling for Prediction
Dirac Transformation Theory
Symmetry in Scientific Theorizing
Abstract Symmetrizing
7. A Modest Proposal
Interpretation: A Failed Program
Away from Interpretation
Hidden Variables Are OK
No End to Science
8. Quantumization: The Quantum Supplementation of Explanatory Theory
The Quantum-Theoretic Context
Quantum Electrodynamics
Quantum Field Theory
String Theory
9. Beyond Quantumization
A Deeper Incorporation

Explores what can be known within quantum theory, with special emphasis on the difference between prediction and explanation.


In straightforward and nontechnical language, a philosopher of science goes to the very heart of what is still the central subject in modern physics, namely, quantum theory, with its astonishing ability to predict—yet not explain. There, he encounters and unravels the maze of bewildering puzzles that, for nearly a century, have locked our most eminent theoreticians in a whirlpool of ongoing controversy. Salvator Cannavo breaks radically with this tradition of searching for a generally acceptable interpretation of quantum theory by urging a complete withdrawal from the fray. In doing so, he first highlights the now established adjunctive role of quantum theory in the elaboration of string theory and other developing branches of explanatory physical theory, and then recommends a new focus for the channeling of creative effort in contemporary theoretical physics.

Salvator Cannavo is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He is the author of Think to Win: The Power of Logic in Everyday Life and Nomic Inference: An Introduction to the Logic of Scientific Inquiry.


"…will be of interest to all practicing physical scientists and intellectually adventurous laypeople. " — CHOICE

"This concise, accurate, and compelling account of quantum theory development over the past one hundred years issues a challenge to reformulate quantum theory. It's a daunting move and will have its detractors for sure, but those who are intimately involved in the field knew this was coming. Cannavo's book will force the issue, and hopefully result in wide-ranging discourse about how to proceed. We may even be lucky enough to be part of it!" — Hank Keeton, coeditor of Physics and Whitehead: Quantum, Process, and Experience