Nahuel Sznajderhaus

Nahuel Sznajderhaus

Thesis title: Realism and Intertheory Relationships: Interstructuralism, Closed Theories and the Quantum-Classical Limit

Summary: My project focuses on the foundations of physics, more specifically on the realist interpretation of quantum mechanics, and the relationship with classical physics.

Teaching Commitments: Tutoring: History of Scientific Thought, Introduction to Philosophy of Science, Ethics of Life & Death, Moral Philosophy.Lecturing: Philosophy of Science, Moral Philosophy


My thesis is on the interpretation of quantum mechanics (QM). I focus on the topic of intertheoretic relationships, on how QM and classical mechanics (CM) are understood to interact with each other. This is both at the epistemic and ontological level. Some research questions that I reflect on are: Is there a reduction relationship between QM and CM? In what sense is QM better and more fundamental than CM? Can we really recover CM from QM? Do classical dynamical structures (such as classical orbits) play any explanatory work for explaining quantum phenomena such as Rydberg atoms? If so, how to interpret such role? Also, why do we need to have ontological reduction? Can we effectively use classical ideas to address quantum problems?

In trying to address all these issues, I engage with topics of philosophy of science, such as scientific explanation, intertheory relations, scientific realism, etc.

I focus on a view on physical theories originated by Werner Heisenberg, one of the most important physicists of the C20th and founding father of QM. His view has been dubbed "Closed theories" by Alisa Bokulich, who clarified it and brought it up back on the debates in the philosophy of physics. Heisenberg is a controversial author when it comes to the philosophy of physics, and there is a lot of debate on what kind of position he endorsed. I do not claim that the closed theories view represents best his thought, but at least he explicitly defended this view, for example in his famous book of 1958 and in a very interesting interview with Thomas Kuhn for the Archive for the History of Quantum Physics (AHQP).

In this view, physical theories are essentially closed frameworks, whereby each theory applies to a specific and limited domain of phenomena. Intertheoretic relationships are possible, but not a priority. And, in fact, because QM is, according to this view, still open, it does not make much sense to try to reduce CM to QM without having found closure to QM first. The extent and difficulties, motivations and possibilities for a framework like this one are precisely the guide for this research project.

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