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Idealization and Formalism in Bohr’s Approach to Quantum Theory

Scott Tanona
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 71, No. 5, Proceedings of the 2002 Biennial Meeting of The Philosophy of Science AssociationPart II: Symposia PapersEdited by Sandra D. Mitchell (December 2004), pp. 683-695
DOI: 10.1086/425233
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/425233
Page Count: 13
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Idealization and Formalism in Bohr’s Approach to Quantum Theory
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Abstract

I reinterpret Bohr’s attitude towards quantum mechanical formalism and its empirical content, based on his understanding of the correspondence principle and its approximate applicability. I suggest that Bohr understood complementarity as a limitation imposed by the commutation relations upon the applicability of the idealizations which had grounded the use of the correspondence principle. By discussing this interpretation against the contemporary background of discussions regarding “naïve realism” about operators (as observables), I suggest that a Bohrian view on the empirical content of quantum mechanical operators may provide a middle ground between complete contextualism and an untenable realism about quantum properties.

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