Volume 1, Issue 3, pages 107-122
Valia Allori has studied physics and philosophy first in Italy, her home country, and then in the United States. She is currently Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at Northern Illinois University where she works in the foundations of physics, with special focus on quantum mechanics. Her main concern has always been to understand what the world is really like, and how we can use our best physical theory to answer such general metaphysical questions. In her physics doctoral dissertation from University of Genova (Italy), she discussed the classical limit of quantum mechanics, to analyze the connections between the quantum and the classical theories. What does it mean that a theory, in a certain approximation, reduces to another? Is the classical explanation of macroscopic phenomena essentially different from the one provided by quantum mechanics? In her philosophy doctoral dissertation from Rutgers she turned to more general questions that involve the structure of fundamental physical theories, the metaphysical status and the epistemological role of the theoretical entities used in these theories. Do all fundamental physical theories have the very same structure, contrarily to what one might think? If so, what is this telling us about the nature of explanation?
The aim of this paper is to summarize a particular approach of doing metaphysics through physics – the primitive ontology approach. The idea is that any fundamental physical theory has a well-defined architecture, to the foundation of which there is the primitive ontology, which represents matter. According to the framework provided by this approach when applied to quantum mechanics, the wave function is not suitable to represent matter. Rather, the wave function has a nomological character, given that its role in the theory is to implement the law of evolution for the primitive ontology.