Jan 3, 2023

What Is Matter (and Why Does It Matter)?

Posted by in categories: particle physics, quantum physics

Quantum Hylomorphism

What is most original in Koons’s book is his argument that quantum mechanics is best interpreted as vindicating the Aristotelian hylomorphist’s view of nature. To be sure, there have been others who have made such claims, not the least of them being Werner Heisenberg, one of the fathers of modern quantum physics. But Koons is the first prominent philosopher to make the case at book-length, in a way that combines expertise in the relevant philosophical ideas and literature with serious and detailed engagement with the scientific concepts. Future work on hylomorphism and the philosophy of quantum mechanics will have to take account of his arguments.

As Koons notes, there are several aspects of quantum mechanics that lend themselves to an Aristotelian interpretation. For example, there is Heisenberg’s famous principle that the position and momentum of a particle are indeterminate apart from interaction with a system at the middle-range level of everyday objects (such as an observer). There is physicist Richard Feynman’s “sum over histories” method, in which predictions must take account of every possible path a particle might take, not just its actual path. There are “entanglement” phenomena, in which the properties of a system of particles are irreducible to the particles considered individually or their spatial relations and relative velocity. There is quantum statistics, in which particles of the same kind are treated as fused and losing their individuality within a larger system.

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