"On How Epistemological Letters Changed the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics"
It is not an exaggeration to say that the 70s marked the beginning of a new era in the foundation of quantum mechanics. These were the years when physicists and philosophers interested in the foundations of physics started to actively engage with the conceptual and empirical implications of the Bell inequality, published in 1964. Among other things, the first experiments designed to test whether quantum mechanics violated the inequality in question were carried out during these years and two journals—Foundations of Physics and Epistemological Letters—dedicated to the foundations of physics were created. Although all this is well-known, not much has been said about the exact ways that Epistemological Letters, in particular, helped the foundations of quantum mechanics consolidate as an important and respectable scientific discipline. And this is precisely the subject of the present talk. As I will argue here, at least four features of Epistemological Letters encouraged the foundations of quantum mechanics to flourish during a time when the discipline itself was not very well respected by the broader physics community: first, the kind of interdisciplinary research Epistemological Letters and the institution behind it so insistently encouraged; second, and related, their efforts for reaching out to anybody interested in the foundations of quantum mechanics, regardless of their department, position, or “academic status”; third, the fact that the journal explicitly promoted the informal confrontation of ideas; fourth, and more obviously, its very high quality—some of the most important papers on the foundations of quantum mechanics were first published in Epistemological Letters.
Sebastián is a sixth-year student on the Philosophy track of the HPS program.
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