Department of Humanities and Social Sciences

Indian Institute of Technology Ropar

HSS Seminar

Dissolving the Measurement Problem - A Naturalist Approach to Quantum Theory


Dr. Tarun Menon

October  12,, 2017 (Thursday) at 2:30 PM

Venue:  Lecture Hall-2


The philosophy of quantum mechanics has centred around the so-called "Measurement Problem", the fact that the bare theoretical framework of quantum mechanics predict multiple measurement outcomes for certain states, yet observers invariably see individual determinate measurement outcomes. Many interpretations of the theory regard this as a fundamental contradiction that can only be resolved by modifying the theory in some manner. The Everettian or "Many Worlds" tradition, however, has argued that the measurement problem is illusory, that there is no contradiction in the structure of the theory, that its account of measurement outcomes is perfectly compatible with what we observe. In the talk, I argue that there are strong reasons to accept this dissolution of the measurement problem. I suggest that the appropriate response to the measurement problem comes from taking an adequately naturalistic perspective on observers -- that observers themselves are physical systems. This approach not only dissolves a philosophical problem, but also yields other dividends, such as a robust justification for the probabilistic structure of quantum theory.

Brief Bio-sketch of the speaker


Tarun Menon is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He studied physics at Amherst College and received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, San Diego. His work has focused on the philosophy of science and the philosophy of physics, particularly on philosophical issues having to do with probability, evidence, causation and emergence. His most recent published work (in the journal Philosophy of Science, July 2017) examined confirmation of theories using multiple independent lines of evidence. He is currently working on the relationship between scientific evidence and policy decision-making.