Lauener Foundation for Analytical Philosophy
Friday 22 June 2012
5th International Lauener Symposium
on Analytical Philosophy
In Honour of Professor Hilary Putnam
Professor Christian Wüthrich
(University of California, San Diego)
Putnam Looks at Quantum Mechanics (Again and Again)
Hilary Putnam (1965, 2005) has argued that from a realist perspective, quantum mechanics stands in need of an interpretation. Ironically, this hypothesis may appear vulnerable against arguments drawing on Putnam's own work. Nancy Cartwright has recently urged that his 1962 essay on the meaning of theoretical terms suggests that quantum mechanics needs no interpretation and thus stands in tension with his claim of three years later. She furthermore contends that this conflict should be resolved in favour of the earlier work, as quantum mechanics, like all successful theories, does not need an interpretation. The first--longer--part of the talk deflates both of these objections.
The second part addresses and evaluates Putnam's own assessments of the main interpretative options available in 1965 and 2005. Although we may disagree on some aspects, his pessimistic conclusion will come out largely unscathed. I will close by briefly stating the historical relevance of this work.