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Is It Possible to Nominalize Quantum Mechanics?
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 70, No. 5, Proceedings of the 2002 Biennial Meeting of The Philosophy of Science AssociationPart I: Contributed PapersEdited by Sandra D. Mitchell (December 2003), pp. 1424-1436
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/377419
Page Count: 13
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Hartry Field (1980) has developed an interesting nominalization strategy for Newtonian gravitation theory—a strategy that reformulates the theory without quantification over abstract entities. According to David Malament (1982), Field's strategy cannot be extended to quantum mechanics (QM), and so it only has a limited scope. In a recent work, Mark Balaguer has responded to Malament's challenge by indicating how QM can be nominalized, and by “doing much of the work needed to provide the nominalization” (Balaguer 1998, 114). In this paper, I critically assess Balaguer's proposal, and argue that it ultimately fails. Balaguer's strategy is incompatible with a number of interpretations of QM, in particular with Bas van Fraassen's version of the modal interpretation. And given that Balaguer's strategy invokes physically real propensities, it is unclear whether it is even compatible with nominalism. I conclude that the nominalization of QM remains a major problem for the nominalist.
Copyright 2003 by the Philosophy of Science Association. All rights reserved.