Quantum theory: A pragmatist approach

Richard Healey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


While its applications have made quantum theory arguably the most successful theory in physics, its interpretation continues to be the subject of lively debate within the community of physicists and philosophers concerned with conceptual foundations. This situation poses a problem for a pragmatist for whom meaning derives from use. While disputes about how to use quantum theory have arisen from time to time, they have typically been quickly resolved, and consensus reached, within the relevant scientific sub-community. Yet, rival accounts of the meaning of quantum theory continue to proliferate.1 In this article, I offer a diagnosis of this situation and outline a pragmatist solution to the problem it poses, leaving further details for subsequent articles. 1 Introduction2 The Objectivity of Quantum Probabilities 2.1 Quantum probabilities are objective 2.2 Quantum probabilities do not represent physical reality3 How Quantum Theory Limits Description of Physical Reality4 The Relational Nature of Quantum States 4.1 Rovelli's relationism 4.2 Quantum Bayesian relationism 4.3 Reference-frame relationism 4.4 Agent-situation relationism and wave-collapse 4.5 Why quantum probabilities are not Lewisian chances5 The Objectivity of Physical Description in Quantum Theory 5.1 Why violations of Bell inequalities involve no physical non-locality 5.2 Objectivity, inter-subjectivity, and Wigner's friend6 Conclusion

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-771
Number of pages43
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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