Quantum Mechanics and Radical Constructivism


Is there an interpretation of quantum mechanics (QM) based on radical constructivism? If yes, what construction of QM does it suggest? If no, can you speculate on such interpretation?

So far my research in the literature has uncovered Andrew Pickering's Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics which is a classic in the field of the sociology of science. Hopefully, other people (including philosophers) have built on his views since the 1980s. In particular those views are related to Ernst von Glasersfeld's radical constructivism.

Another related work is Michel Bitbol's attempt at a transcendental deduction of quantum mechanics.


Posted 2014-12-31T15:10:39.027

Reputation: 179

correct me if i'm wrong, but this seems like a scientific question... philosophers argue for the extent of constructivism, they don't try to reconstruct the field – None – 2015-01-01T06:09:06.000

oh and hacking talks about quarks in his really cool book, the social construction of what :) – None – 2015-01-01T06:10:04.323

1@user3293056: If a physicist were working at that, he would be immediately excommunicated from the Materialist Church :) I have added a link to such an attempt at a construction by a philosopher. – Bob – 2015-01-01T10:14:06.887

i'm feeling sleepy, what is a tran. ded.? and is this link REALLY saying that philosophers can devise novel "interpretations" of physics, rather than simply pointing out a lacunae in the underpinnings of a science – None – 2015-01-01T15:21:17.730

You will have to read the linked article if you want to know what it is. And, yes, some can! – Bob – 2015-01-01T17:57:06.037

wouldn't they be doing science tho ? – None – 2015-01-01T21:01:03.777

Scientist probably all have a received view on how to interpret theories but they do not necessarily entertain the same view and it is rarely clear and explicit. It is philosophy's job to clarify the metaphysical aspects of theories. Scientists do it sometimes of course (fundamental scientists at least), but then they're just doing philosophy. Interpreting QM in a constructivist way does not fall in the scope of science insofar as one does not decide between different interpretations on empirical grounds. – Quentin Ruyant – 2015-01-02T10:40:29.387

If science is about building predictive models for observations, and if these models need to be compatible with accepted models, and if acceptance is social, then this is obviously true. Even if we argue that models are accepted because they are useful they are still transmitted socially, and as a practical matter, people take them as a given. Could you clarify the question? – R. Barzell – 2015-01-02T15:20:12.747



Everett's Many Worlds model is, in its own way, a form of radical constructivism. It implies that each individual has a timeline, and every timeline determines an entire universe, in which decisions about indeterminate events is resolved only for those moving along that timeline.

So not only does my entire reality depend upon how I make sense of it, but hordes of different versions of me create whole dimensions of alternative ways of making sense of it. In a more classical framing, all of those worlds are not duplicates of each other with minor variations, but exist as matrices of details that are only partially determined until they meet an observer.

Given that notion of a coherent observer collapsing undecided past events, a la Schrodinger's cat, who is to say that any of those decisions are made on their own before I personally do something that requires them to be decided? Basically, we can presume that no past event affecting me is truly determined before I understand it.

Then not only are understanding and acting intertwined, but actual history is undecided until action meets understanding.

This becomes bizarrely solipsistic unless one also accepts some notion of intersubjectity, where my understanding of your existence, and your understanding of the past then presses me to share a partial understanding of the past, so that we agree on the vast majority of these past events.

That is best captured, in my opinion, in something like Leibniz notion of monads. Shared reality consists of feedback loops between your subjective realities and mine. Each of our subjective realities is projected onto each other's and we accept partial versions of each of our associates' subjective worlds and mediate a position of our own.

Whitehead's systematization in "Science and the Modern World" is largely a resurrection of Leibniz in reaction to the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics and the feelings of relativism in a matrix of overwhelming interdependence that dominate modern life. One way of reading this kind of thing is as a pure idealism, but an alternative is as radical constructivism with a strong form of intersubjectivity.


Posted 2014-12-31T15:10:39.027



I find it difficult to see how a Transcendental Deduction of QM can be feasibly constructed or thought through given that Kants notion of space & time related not to space & time as its given objectively in a theory of physics, such as Newtons; but as it is given to us phenomenologically (or to be more accurate how we represent space and time to ourselves); its through this represention when thought through that we obtain Newtonian mechanics, or more recently QM.

Mozibur Ullah

Posted 2014-12-31T15:10:39.027

Reputation: 1

This is a comment, not an answer. – Bob – 2015-01-04T21:03:17.543

1@bob: how is this not an answer (of some form), when the OP specifically brings up Bitbols 'Transcendental Deduction of QM'? – Mozibur Ullah – 2015-01-05T16:22:50.313