Back to Home

Physics and Philosophy

Posted in: Reading , Physics , Philosophy

It has been stated at the beginning that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory starts with a paradox. It starts from the fact that we describe our experiments in the terms of classical physics and at the same time from the knowledge that these concepts do not fit nature accurately. The tension between these two starting points is the root of the statistical character of quantum theory. Therefore, it has sometimes been suggested that one should depart from the classical concepts altogether and that a radical change in the concepts used for describing the experiments might possibly lead back to a nonstatical, completely objective description of nature.

This suggestion, however, rests upon a misunderstanding. The concepts of classical physics are just a refinement of the concepts of daily life and are an essential part of the language which forms the basis of all natural science. Our actual situation in science is such that we do use the classical concepts for the description of the experiments on this basis. There is no use in discussing what could be done if we were other beings than we are. At this point we have to realize, as von Weizäcker has put it, that “Nature is earlier than man, but man is earlier than natural science.” The first part of the sentence justified classical physics, with its ideal of complete objectivity. The second part tells us why we cannot escape the paradox of quantum theory, namely, the necessity of using the classical concepts.

Taken from Physics and Philosophy by Werner Heinsenberg.