The Natural Ontological Attitude from a Physicist's Perspective: Towards Quantum Realism
Thesis DisciplineHistory and Philosophy of Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The debate between Arthur Fine and Alan Musgrave is well known amongst those involved in the scientific realism debate and centres upon two papers that are quite often found together in philosophy of science anthologies. Reading them like this gives the very strong impression the Musgrave is the victor which is the commonly held view. In this thesis, I wish to overturn this view by placing Fine's paper in context, namely as part of a larger work on the history and philosophy of quantum physics. Fine's book, The Shaky Game: Einstein, Realism and Quantum Theory, gives us good reason to believe that quantum physics significantly undermines the whole scientific realism debate, and as such, has strongly influenced Fine's development of the Natural Ontological Attitude, which is as Fine believes a middle ground between realism and anti-realism. The present thesis evaluates the Natural Ontological Attitude from a physicist's perspective and defends Fine against Musgrave's reply to the extent that it demonstrates that Musgrave would do well to read Fine's paper in context.
That said, just as Fine in his youth hoped that a quantum realist position will one day be found, so I also possess this aspiration; and so, despite my concluding that Fine is justified in holding to NOA, I argue furthermore that NOA is but a precursor to a potential quantum structural realist position. After showing that structural realism is worthy of consideration by using it to counter Fine's objections to scientific realism, I analyse the results of quantum physics in an attempt to understand what it can tell us about reality in the quantum realm. Eliminativist Ontic Structural Realism holds great promise as a quantum realism contender, and as such, it inspired the questions regarding individuality and reality that are discussed in the final main chapter. I thus resuscitate hope that the cause of the quantum realist is not yet lost.