Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Possibility, actuality, and the growth of imagination : the many-worlds approach to quantum physics

Alberto Cordero


Everett-DeWitt interpretations of quantum physics speak of a multiplicity of physically coexisting worlds. These imaginative reactions to the conceptual problems of standard quantum mechanics form a family of physicalist “many-worlds” proposals (PMW for short) that have been variously dismissed as “incoherent”, so far without full success. A renewed charge by Hilary Putnam now seems to pose deeper trouble for PMW. In a recent paper, he seizes on “Schrödinger’s cat” situations to expose how PMW relativization of actuality and basic combinatorics jointly ruin probabilistic talk. Putnam focuses on confirmation and luck. His case against PMW is thought-provoking but also questionable, or so I suggest in this paper. First I argue that, as presented, Putnam’s charge doesn’t go through. I then consider his argument proper. According to Putnam, experimental DeWittians must count themselves as “lucky” in a seriously incoherent sense. I consider his take on “luck” and deny that defenders of PMW need to so regard themselves. Although extravagant, their position cannot be fruitfully dismissed as incoherent on metascientific grounds. Indeed it attests to the way science rationally helps the imagination to grow.

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