A new paper was published this month. A overview is here:

On the reality of the quantum state

The preprint on Arxiv is here:

Arxiv preprint:On the reality of the quantum state

note: they are not saying the wave function itself is physically real/tangible (something of physical substance). rather:

"The argument depends on few assumptions. One is that a
system has a real physical state --  not necessarily completely
described by quantum theory, but objective and
independent of the observer."

The wave function is still thought of as an object in a phase space.

anyway, I wanted to make people aware of this paper.

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That is a broad question. What/which piece is confusing?

Physics and Math has slowly been solving/helping with a variety of philosophical questions. It will continue to do so.

No sledge hammers, just little chisels that will sculpt away at things.


maybe this is the way to view it  (taken from Can the quantum state be interpreted statistically?)

"Constraints on Ontic Models

Even disregarding the PBR paper, we already know that ontic models expressible in this framework have to have a number of undesirable properties. Bell’s theorem implies that they have to be nonlocal, which is not great if we want to maintain Lorentz invariance [relativity theory], and the Kochen-Specker theorem implies that they have to be contextual. Further, Lucien Hardy’s ontological excess baggage theorem shows that the ontic state space for even a qubit would have to have infinite cardinality [uncountable as well]. Following this, Montina proved a series of results, which culminated in the claim that there would have to be an object satisfying the Schrödinger equation present within the ontic state (see this paper). This latter result is close to the implication of the PBR theorem itself."

"Given these constraints, it is perhaps not surprising that most psi-epistemicists have already opted for option 2, denouncing scientific realism entirely. Those of us who cling to realism have mostly decided that the ontic state must be a different type of object than it is in the framework described above. "


My viewpoint: it forces a relational reality (i.e. Mermin etc) which is exactly how Jung would have chosen it in order to explain Synchronicity. The following viewpoints seem unsustainable: Multiverses, de Broglie-Bohm and anything else that says we live in a hard-core realism that is Ontological. The world is only Knowledge (epistemology in Nature).

Any realism is dead.

 Thanks for your reply, John!

 Well, I don't see Physics and Maths useful as philosophical tools (some philosophers do, some don't) and I'd like to understand why you think they are. I respect Physics and Maths and their approach to reality, but I understand that the philosophical approach is a different one and the esoterical is, too, a different one. I don't understand how the philosophical questions of idealism and realism are translated into Physics and Maths and I'm skeptical about the success of such translation.

 I think that there is a synthesis and that we who work in culture are all working (aware or unaware) towards it, but, as we already know, your share of it is quite different from mine. Yet, we share a fondness of "killing" as a theoretical attitude, so there's hope for us. Can you elaborate a little the statement that "all realism is dead"?     

" Yet, we share a fondness of "killing" as a theoretical attitude, so there's hope for us."

huh? lost me.

as for: " I don't understand how the philosophical questions of idealism and realism are translated into Physics and Maths and I'm skeptical about the success of such translation."

I need an example of which/what specific "philosophical questions of idealism and realism" you are referring to. I am unsure if "Philosophy" has an accepted viewpoint here?

When I say realism is dead, I am referring to the slow sweeping/painting of reality, through experiments, to the point that they (physical realists) are now fairly "stuck" in a small corner of the room of ideas and must accept some rather strange ideas with little way out. The harder they try to break out only makes their corner smaller. Science does not play philosophical favoritism. It just is what it is.


 Hi, John, thanks for your reply!

 a) That wanted to be a joke to make you smile, no more. I follow Joe's mantra: have fun! with all my seriousness.  ;-)

 b) Philosophers only need a tool to work: language. The study (and tricky use) of language may be the only constant through Western philosophy since the Greeks. Since ancient Greeks time, when a philosopher says "A" there is one predictible consequence: another philosopher will say "B". Philosophers have tried to define philosophy, each one according to their own idea, with the usual success. The basic idea I get from this situation is that many approaches to reality are needed. 

 I'm a philosopher because I survived to university exams, but I don't hold any philosophy as "the only good one". Having good language skills has indeed helped me to survive.

 I used the expression "the philosophical questions of idealism and realism" because of its broadness and because they seem to me the philosophical questions that may be most closely related. Within philosophy, this question has been approached differently along the centuries. Anyone interested in the history of human culture can look at examples of this. Not many scientists are interested in the study of the history of culture, the history of ideas, and this is the reason why I am skeptic when people from Maths and Physics go into philosophical questions. 

c) When you say "realism is dead" you are using an expression that leads me into making jokes about killing, you are using an expression that can be qualified as "philosophical" (we would find examples of philosophers saying this kind of things), and you are using a metaphor. You are still using a methaphor when you say they're cornered (sorry, I think in boxing terms, being stuck in the corner is bad news). So I understand that there's a fight about favourite ideas, which is not at all surprising to me, but I still don't understand which ideas are they fighting about!!! Can you explain in simple terms the main idea of those "physical realists" and why it is so weak that it does not allow them to defend themselves?

 I don't want to offend you, John, but when I read that "Science does not play philosophical favoritism. It is just what it is.", I see a person defending his favourite ideal of science in a wrong way, attacking philosophy. A sentence like "It is what it is." can be applied to nature as a whole, or to natural processes, as they go on with no need to any of us to think on them, but not to science, philosophy, literature, arts, war, or any human activity. Any human activity is what we humans make of it.  If "Science" were in this world, she would go along on her own legs and "scientists" would not be needed. The situation is the opposite, scientists, philosophers and all kinds of people are in this world.  

 d) About the esoterical. I understand that this is the approach to reality in which internal experience is the most important point. Were it not because of internal experiences, I'd be a philosopher or whatever, I don't know. Internal experiences seem to be the opposite to laboratory work, and I don't care much about what anyone may say, they are the most important in my life, and I'm ready to defend my approach to reality, because ultimately it's as good as any other, as all them are human, so they are equally sacred in my consideration.   

 I'm not yet sure about blaming or blessing Anand for goading me onto this thread! Have fun today, friends!!!  

Hi -

Thanks for the clarification!

Physics/Math never had much (if anything) to say about the deep questions in philosophy until the last century. Specifically, around 1970 they were able to do experiments which were helpful on aspects of philosophy.

when I say "it is what it is", I only mean that something like a thermometer has no opinion on the matters. If I over anthropomorphized - that was not my intent.

Mark, I pretty much agree with you on what you just stated.

John, you're referring to articles in professional physics journals. I'm referring to a possible article geared to the public interested in this subject.

This is far from a top priority in my life right now, but if I do happen to run into an article, or articles, by knowledgeable metaphysical people that relates the relevance and significance, if any, of the PBR paper to the metaphysical/spiritual arena, I'll pass along the link or links.


It seems to me, gentlemen, that a confusing element is afoot here. Namely, definition of terms, and mainly that of "realism," "physical realism, "  or "material realism"(all meaning the same). My comments earlier used this term in a different light than you, John, (and perhaps Ferran) are using it.

Here is how I was using  the term.

Dr. Amit Goswami ( Ph.D., retired Professor of Physics at the U. of Oregon) defines "material realism" in his book THE SELF AWARE UNIVERSE as:

"A philosophy holding that there is only one material reality, that all things are made of matter (and its correlates, energy and fields), and that consciousness is an epiphenomena of matter."

Is this the viewpoint(philosophy), John, you are referring to when you use terms "realism" and 'physical realism"? If so and "any realism is dead" as you state, this is good news indeed, but would surprise the likes of Stephen Hawking, who is a confirmed "material realist" of this definition. From everywhere I read, this philosophy prevails in physics and other sciences.

The other view, "Idealism" or "Monistic Idealism," advocated by Dr. Goswami and many others,(and the one I adhere to) is defined by him as:

"The philosophy that consciousness as the primary reality, as the ground of all being. The objects of consensus empirical reality are all epiphenomena of consciousness that arise from the modifications of consciousness. There is no self-nature in either the subject or object of a conscious experience apart from consciousness."

In conclusion, as you can see, science does plays "philosophical favoritism."

I think your last sentence should read
"In conclusion, as you can see, some scientists play philosophical favoritism."

The theorem in question (here) was summed up in the blog post by Matt Leifer pretty well. The intent is to chisel out, or refine, an option (the first, option 1) so to eliminate it from consideration. This puts more constraints into place. After the experiment is preformed, it is a piece of the puzzle and a statement about reality that must be taken into account (predictions from quantum mechanics end up being correct. scary).

This process has been going on for a few decades now ....   Local reality is not supported in QM and every attempt to regain it ends up having issues and creating stronger arguments for non-locality.

The two definitions (by Dr. Amit Goswami) are interesting. They force consciousness into the picture a priori. They seem to try and force multiple philosophical definitions into one of two statements.

To begin with, John, Dr. Goswami's definitions were not something he "pulled out of thin air," but are long established in philosophy and philosophy of science. Although, the use of the term "material realism" and "realism" can be misleading, as realism can have different definitions in Science, Art and literature. A better term would be "materialist/reductionist" or just "materialism."

It seems that to take the position not to bring in consciousness into the picture is still to a priori take the materialist position, consciously or subconsciously,  that consciousness is a mere epiphenomena of matter of no consequence. A philosophical position is being taken either way.

Dr. Goswami is certainly not questioning non-locality, just the opposite, and he explains it quite well so the layperson can understand it.

The other area you bring up, in this and in others posts, that physics experiments give us statements about what is reality, "what is" as you put it, gets a little more complicated and is the classic materialist view. I don't want to get into a long debate or discussion on this, and anything I might say would be dismissed as only "speculation by an amateur" anyway, since I'm certainly no specialist, for sure.

However, I will offer selected quotes from a Dr. Roger S. Jones, Ph.D., Professor emeritus in Physics from the U. of Minnesota. In his gem of a book, PHYSICS FOR THE REST OF US - (the title is misleading, for chapters in it get quite into depth). In chapters titled "Objectivity, Measurement, and Reality," and "Physics and Consciousness" he gives a detailed dismantling of Materialism. Take note, though, he is not dismissing physics as a valuable tool to solve certain problems in life, but just that it is not the final objective truth.

Dr. Jones:

    "Physics was designed to make predictions, and in this respect relativity and quantum theory are no different from Newtonian physics...To argue on the contrary (as a believer in objectivity might do) that physics is not contrived but simply describes what is - physical reality - is to ignore all the choices, conventions, definitions, assumptions, beliefs, and tacit knowledge built into science, all of which could have been selected in countless ways, other than the traditional ways of science. Even the so-called mathematical structure of the physical world - the fact that nature imitates equations and geometry - is something of a hype...The physical reality we take for granted is primarily defined by successful theories - theories whose domain of application and methodology have been created and refined until they fit together, like hand in glove. Of course it all works. It was designed to.

     "The system of science is by now so complex, intricate, and familiar that it is difficult to realize that it was the creation of human minds, involving arbitrary and subjective choices...It is a remarkably useful and valuable system, but it's use and value cannot guarantee its truth content or its correspondence to any objective reality...That it is successful is undeniable, but the ability to accomplish a goal is no guarantee of truth or objectivity."

     "The criteria for judging the value and validity of science cannot be dictated by science itself, but must come instead from a broader region of human understanding and wisdom."

Dr. Jones is not just espousing rhetoric here, but goes into a lengthy, detailed analysis of all these points in his book.  I think he makes some valuable and pertinent points to be seriously considered.

Thank You John and Michael for this very interesting discussion. I found Carlo Rovelli's (A Theoretical Physicist of repute) idea quite in sync with this discussion. he says:

Science is not about certainty. Science is about finding the most reliable way of thinking, at the present level of knowledge. Science is extremely reliable; it's not certain. In fact, not only it's not certain, but it's the lack of certainty that grounds it. Scientific ideas are credible not because they are sure, but because they are the ones that have survived all the possible past critiques, and they are the most credible because they were put on the table for everybody's criticism.

Full interview can be read here.


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