John Bell Workshop 2014

Local Beables and the Foundations of Physics

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    AvatarTim Maudlin

    Bell’s analysis of how the local beables postulated by a theory function in deriving its empirical consequences stands on its own as a contribution to the foundations of physics. From this perspective we can understand both what the “measurement problem” of quantum theory is and how it can be solved in a principled way. We can also see how theories that appear on the surface to be quite different—pilot wave theory, GRW, Everett(?), and even Copenhagen—all appeal to the same basic architectonic[1]. From this perspective, it is obvious why, for example, the decoherence of the quantum state, all on its own, could not solve the measurement problem. For it cannot, all on its own, bring any local beables into existence. It also highlights a challenge for the orthodox Everettian position. Orthodox Everettians would certainly renounce Everett(?) as their theory: they will have no truck with real particle configurations at all. But what, then, are the local beables that their theory is committed to? No answer is readily forthcoming. This is a completely different problem from the problems about probability and unique outcomes of experiments that are usually discussed. But it is a problem to be solved if the theory’s relation to observational data is to be comprehensible.

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