The "Spirit" of Copenhagen

"Opposites are complementary."—Niels Bohr
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class="first">The "Spirit" of Copenhagen

Post by JustinB » Tue Dec 01, 2020 8:11 am

I usually think of quantum mechanics philosophically in terms of the dialectic of Hegel's logic, so I was interested to read a different take on it—oriented around spirit (Geist)—in Arkady Plotnitsky's book The Principles of Quantum Theory:
The spirit of Copenhagen was ... a major force, however resisted, shaping and driving this development [of modern atomic theory]. Clearly, too ... in choosing this impression, Heisenberg has in mind the confrontation between nature and the human spirit or mind (German Geist has both meanings), given the philosophical implications of German Geist, the word that G.W.F. Hegel made central to German and European philosophy with his Phenomenology of Spirit. This confrontation, I argue, took a new form with quantum theory, both in general, because it posed a new task for physics and philosophy, and specifically as that between the quantum reality of nature and the spirit of Copenhagen. The spirit of Copenhagen is ... defined by its questioning of the possibility of realism in considering the ultimate (quantum) constitution of nature, ultimately by adopting the RWR [reality-without-realism] principle, which in its strongest form, disallows not only a representation but also a conception of this constitution. [Preface, p. xx]
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