Department of Philosophy

Kristian Camilleri guest seminar

A1 Humanities Building
Monday 18th June 2018 (15:30-17:30)
Kirsten Walsh

The Department of Philosophy is excited to welcome Kristian Camilleri from the University of Melbourne for a special guest seminar.

Please join us on Monday 18 June at 3.30pm in Humanities A01 - all are welcome and no registration is required.


Historical Contingency and the Copenhagen Hegemony

The last few decades have witnessed a shift in attitudes towards the foundations of quantum mechanics. Since the 1990s, there has been a resurgence of interest in a range of new interpretations, which have challenged the orthodox ‘Copenhagen view’. This has prompted a number of scholars, particularly those sympathetic to these approaches, to revisit the question of why the Copenhagen orthodoxy went virtually unchallenged for so long, in spite of persistent and nagging criticisms from such eminent physicists as Einstein and Schrödinger.

This paper forms part of a larger project, which attempts to answer this question. Here I attempt to throw new light on the “culture of orthodoxy”, which first emerged in the late 1920s, by drawing together different perspectives from the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. Here I maintain that, contrary to the standard narrative, there was no widely shared ‘Copenhagen interpretation’, but rather, there was a shared sense of satisfaction with the theory, based largely on heuristic and pragmatic considerations. By the late 1920s quantum mechanics had already opened up several new fields of physics such as quantum chemistry and nuclear physics, which provided career prospects and opportunities for a new generation of young physicists. These ‘applications’ of quantum mechanics, I argue, formed part of the dominant culture of European physics in the 1930s, which reflected and further entrenched Niels Bohr’s authority in Copenhagen.


Department of Philosophy

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