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Symmetries and the constitution of objectivity in quantum physics: A study on the non-representationalist theories of knowledge


Recent years have seen a surge of research in the philosophy of physics. In particular, the conceptual and epistemological problems related to the interpretation of quantum mechanics have been reformulated within the framework of the current debate on structural realism. The proposed project presents an original approach, bordering between epistemology and theoretical physics, to address those philosophical issues. Such an approach adopts both an instrumentalist conception of theories and a constructivist conception of knowledge, in which experimental facts and theoretical models are co-constituted through scientific practice. The overall goal is to point out the shortcomings of the representationalist paradigm of knowledge, and to establish the objectivity of science without relying on the alleged correspondence between the theoretical symbolism and a pre-constituted reality. This program involves two steps: (1) an analysis of the notion of objectivity inspired by both transcendental (i.e. neo-Kantian) philosophy and the pragmatist trends in the philosophy of language, and (2) the formal derivation of the mathematical (predictive) structure of quantum models from the conditions of possibility of an objective know-how (to be achieved by exploiting the link between invariance conditions, symmetry groups and conservation principles). The proposed constructivist account of objectivity provides a very original contribution to a topical debate in the philosophy of physics, and outlines an innovative framework to deal with the interpretational issues of quantum mechanics. It also has wide-ranging implications for epistemology and strong connections with the constructivist trends in cognitive sciences. The project comprises an initial training phase at Princeton University under the supervision of Bas van Fraassen, and a return phase at the CREA (École Polytechnique) of Paris with Michel Bitbol.

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Gilles Traimond (Mr.)
EU contribution
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