Causation in Quantum Mechanics

Richard Healey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


There is widespread agreement that quantum mechanics has something radical to teach us about causation. But opinions differ on what this is. Physicists have often taken the central lesson to be that many physical events occur spontaneously, so that a principle of causality is violated whenever an atom emits light, or a uranium nucleus decays, even though nothing that happened beforehand made this inevitable. Feynman urged philosophers to acknowledge that this implication of quantum mechanics undermines the view that causal determinism forms a precondition of scientific inquiry. But while some physicists have denied the implication, most philosophers since Reichenbach have accepted it with alacrity, and sought to develop accounts of causation equally applicable in an indeterministic or a deterministic world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Causation
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191577246
ISBN (Print)9780199279739
StatePublished - Jan 2 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Causal determinism
  • Causation
  • Free will
  • Quantum physics
  • Quantum systems
  • Statistical correlations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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