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Realism, the Interpretation of Quantum Theory, and Idealism

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Confused ideas about the weirdness of quantum mechanics have sometimes been blamed for the spread of anti-realist positions in philosophy. In this seminar, I shall re-examine the relation between realism and quantum theory. After sketching the abstract mathematical structure of the theory, I shall introduce realism in a very broad sense and discuss some of its problems and some counter-arguments. Then I shall look at why quantum theory needs an interpretation and at some of the features common to many proposed interpretations. I shall illustrate the themes of the seminar by discussing the idea of decoherence theory, and by very briefly sketching my own realist version of idealism in which the fundamental entities are structures which define minds, and the fundamental laws govern the stochastic developments of those structures. At some time after the seminar, I intend to put an extended version of my notes and overheads on my web site at

http://www.bss.phy.cam.ac.uk/~mjd1014/real.html

This talk is part of the Philosophy of Physics series.

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