The meaning of the wave function has been a hot topic of debate since the early days of quantum mechanics. Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in this long-standing question. Is the wave function ontic, directly representing a state of reality, or epistemic, merely representing a state of (incomplete) knowledge, or something else? If the wave function is not ontic, then what, if any, is the underlying state of reality? If the wave function is indeed ontic, then exactly what physical state does it represent?
In this book, I aim to make sense of the wave function in quantum mechanics and find the ontological content of the theory. The book can be divided into three parts. The first part addresses the question of the nature of the wave function (Chapters 1–5). After giving a comprehensive and critical review of the competing views of the wave function, I present a new argument for the ontic view in terms of protective measurements. In addition, I also analyze the origin of the wave function by deriving the free Schrödinger equation. The second part analyzes the ontological meaning of the wave function (Chapters 6 and 7). I propose a new ontological interpretation of the wave function in terms of random discontinuous motion of particles, and give two main arguments supporting this interpretation. The third part investigates whether the suggested quantum ontology is complete in accounting for our definite experience and whether it needs to be revised in the relativistic domain (Chapters 8 and 9).
The idea of random discontinuous motion of particles came to my mind when I was a postgraduate at the Institute of Electronics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in 1993. I am happy that finally it has a more logical and satisfying formulation in this book. During the past 20 years, I have benefited from interactions and discussions with many physicists and philosophers of physics who care about the way the world really is.