The explanatory function of quantum probabilities: Explanation without representation

Richard Healey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Quantum probabilities are generated by quantum states. But if neither quantum states nor Born probabilities describe or represent physical reality, then how can we use them to explain what happens? An otherwise puzzling phenomenon is explained when it is seen to be just what one should have expected. In accepting quantum theory one takes it as one's guide in forming beliefs in statements about values of magnitudes (NQMC)s. Quantum theory first licenses one to form degrees of belief only in certain (NQMC)s in a given situation, based on an assessment of the relevant degree of decoherence. A quantum state then advises adoption of specific degrees of belief in appropriately licensed (NQMC)s equal to Born probabilities. Given these beliefs, a corresponding statistical distribution of magnitude values will (almost always) be just what one would have expected. That is how we use quantum theory to explain statistical regularities, whether we know about these through experimental measurements or by observation of natural events. (It is, for example, how we can use quantum theory to explain violation of Bell inequalities without any "spooky" action at a distance).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFoundations of Probability and Physics - 6, FPP6
Number of pages5
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Conference Foundations of Probability and Physics-6, FPP6 - Vaxjo, Sweden
Duration: Jun 14 2011Jun 16 2011

Publication series

NameAIP Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)0094-243X
ISSN (Electronic)1551-7616


OtherInternational Conference Foundations of Probability and Physics-6, FPP6


  • Bell correlations
  • Born probabilities
  • Explanation
  • Quantum states
  • Representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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