Project

Back to overview

The Metaphysics of Quantum Objects

Applicant Calosi Claudio
Number 181088
Funding scheme Eccellenza
Research institution Département de Philosophie Faculté des Lettres Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.01.2020 - 31.12.2024
Approved amount 1'435'611.00
Show all

Keywords (9)

Extension; Dependence; Determinacy; Persistence; Quantum Metaphysics; Metaphysics of Science; Composition; Location; Quantum Objects

Lay Summary (Italian)

Lead
Il progetto si propone di offrire un resoconto metafisicamente organico della natura degli oggetti quantistici, con particolare attenzione a questioni di composizione, dipendenza, indeterminatezza, locazione, estensione e persistenza.
Lay summary

Titolo del Progetto di Ricerca

The Metaphysics of Quantum Objects
La Métaphysique des Objets Quantiques
La Metafisica degli Oggetti Quantistici
Metaphysik der Quantenobjekte


In Sintesi

Gli oggetti quantistici, e.g. particelle elementari come gli elettroni, o anche oggetti piu’ complessi come atomi di idrogeno o perfino molecole con 60 atomi di carbonio---le cosiddette quantum buckyballs---si comportano in un modo assolutamente straordinario: sembrano essere in piu’ luoghi contemporaneamente, sembrano dipendere da altri oggetti quantistici che sono a miglia e miglia di distanza, sebbene siano i piu’ piccoli componenti di ogni oggetto materiale un solo oggetto quantistico sembra riempire tutta una stanza, e perché no, l’universo intero. La domanda sulla straordinaria natura degli oggetti quantistici aspetta ad oggi---a quasi cento anni dalla rivoluzione quantistica in fisica---una risposta. 

 

Soggetto e Obiettivo

Lo scopo del progetto è fornire questa risposta: in particolare il progetto si promette di presentare un resoconto metafisico dettagliato, organico ed esauriente della natura degli oggetti quantistici che riesca a rendere conto dei comportamenti sorprendenti cui si accennava. La necessità di una trattazione metafisica della natura degli oggetti quantistici nasce dal fatto che, contrariamente a quanto accade nella fisica classica, il formalismo quantistico è notoriamente poco trasparente per quanto riguarda le sue implicazioni ontologiche. Nelle mirabili parole di Tom Stoppard:

“Quando le cose diventano molto piccole diventano completamente fuori di testa. (…) Un atomo di idrogeno ha un singolo elettrone che gli guizza attorno come una falena in una cattedrale vuota (…) Ogni atomo è una cattedrale (…) C’è una scala dritta dall’atomo al granello di sabbia e l’unico mistero in fisica è il gradino mancante. Sotto, la fisica delle particelle; sopra, la fisica classica; ma nel mezzo, metafisica!” (T. Stoppard, Hapgood).    

Il progetto è suddiviso in seii sotto-progetti, ciascuno dedicato a una della domande fondamentali sulla natura degli oggetti quantistici: Composizione(quando due o piu’ oggetti quantistici formano un nuovo oggetto?), Dipendenza(da che cosa dipendono le peculiari caratteristiche degli oggetti quantistici?), Determinatezza(gli oggetti quantistici sono oggetti indeterminati?), Locazione(dove sono gli oggetti quantistici?), Estensione(quanto sono grandi gli oggetti quantistici?) e, infine, Persistenza(come durano nel tempo gli oggetti quantistici?).

Contesto Socio-Scientifico

Il progetto è un progetto di metafisica della scienza, vale a dire un progetto a cavallo tra discipline umanistiche (filosofia, in particolare filosofia della fisica e metafisica) e scienze dure (fisica in particolare, ma anche logica matematica). 


Parole Chiavi

Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Metaphysics, Quantum Objects, Composition, Dependence, Determinacy, Location, Extension, Persistence.

 

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 29.08.2019

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
The project attempts to provide an organic metaphysical account of the nature if quantum objects, with a particular attention to issues of composition, dependence, determinacy, location, extension and persistence.
Lay summary
Title of the Research Project

The Metaphysics of Quantum Objects

La Métaphysique des Objets Quantiques

La Metafisica degli Oggetti Quantistici

Metaphysik der Quantenobjekte

Summary

Quantum objects, e.g. elementary particles such as electrons, or even more complex objects like hydrogen atoms, and even molecules with 60 carbon atoms---the so-called quantum buckyballs--- behave in an absolutely extraordinaryway: they seem to be in different places at the same time, they seem to depend on other quantum objects that are literally miles apart, and despite the fact that they are the smallest constituents of all the material objects they seem to be able to fill an entire room, and why not, even the universe. The question about the extraordinary nature of the quantum objects, after almost a hundred years from the quantum revolution in physics, still waits a satisfactory answer.

 

Subject and Aim

The aim and the ambition of the project is to give the aforementioned answer. In particular, the project attempts to provide a detailed, exhaustive and organic metaphysical account of the nature of quantum objects, that is able to account for the extraordinary behavior that I just mentioned. The necessity of a philosophical, and in particular a metaphysical assessment of the nature of quantum objects stems from the fact that, in contrast with classical physics, the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics is notoriously opaque when it comes to its ontological intimations. In Tom Stoppard’s marvelous words:

“When things get very small they get truly crazy (...) A hydrogen atom has a single electron flitting about like a moth in an empty cathedral (...) Every atom is a cathedral (...) There is a straight ladder from the atom to the grain of sand, and the only real mystery in physics is the missing rung. Below it, particle physics; above it, classical physics; but in between, metaphysics! (Tom Stoppard, Hapgood).

The project is divided in six sub-projects, each of which is focused a one fundamental question about the nature of quantum objects: Composition(When to or more quantum objects form a new object?), Dependence(On what do quantum objects depend on?), Determinacy(Are quantum objects indeterminate objects?), Location(Where are quantum objects located at?), Extension(How big are quantum objects?), and, finally, Persistence(How do quantum objects extend through time?)

 

Social and Scientific Context

The project is a project in metaphysics of science, that is, a project at the crossroads of humanities (philosophy, in particular philosophy of physics and metaphysics), and hard sciences (physics in particular, but mathematical logic as well). 

 

Keywords

 

Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Metaphysics, Quantum Objects, Composition, Dependence, Determinacy, Location, Extension, Persistence. 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 29.08.2019

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
157792 The Metaphysics of Time and its Occupants: Reconciling the Manifest Image and Contemporary Science 01.08.2015 SNSF Consolidator Grants

Abstract

There is a renewed interest in the metaphysics of objects, as witnessed in recent works such as Thomasson (2007), Koslicki (2008), Sattig (2015), and Korman (2015). Despite this interest none of these recent works devote little more than a cursory glance to contemporary science in general, and quantum mechanics (QM) in particular. This is most striking inasmuch as QM seems to offer the most accurate account of the nature of matter, and material objects we have. Still, in the philosophy of physics, there are interesting remarks about the metaphysics of quantum objects. Yet these remarks are widely scattered and rather partial. Even commendable exceptions such as Castellani (1998), Falkenburg (2007), and Dorr (2009) fall nonetheless short of developing a satisfactory general framework. The ambition of the present project is to be the first thorough investigation of the nature of quantum objects. In doing so, it promises to fill the longstanding gap in the literature. The project will be structured into six sub-projects, each dealing with a specific issue in the metaphysics of quantum objects: [1] Composition; [2] Dependence; [3] Determinacy; [4] Location; [5] Extension, and [6] Persistence. Whereas some of the particular issues have received a fair share of attention, thanks to this project most central ones will be addressed for the first time in the literature. From a broader outlook, the project represents an example of metaphysics of science, the program at the intersection between analytic metaphysics and philosophy of science---physics in particular.
-