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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: August 2010

Introduction

Summary

There are many important questions that do not fall neatly into any one discipline; rather, their full investigation requires the integration of two or more distinct fields. This book is about just such a question – one that arises at the intersection of physics, philosophy, and history. The question can be simply stated as “What is the relation between classical and quantum mechanics?” The simplicity of the question, however, belies the complexity of the answer. Classical mechanics and quantum mechanics are two of the most successful scientific theories ever developed, and yet how these two very different theories can successfully describe one and the same world – the world we live in – is far from clear. One theory is deterministic, the other indeterministic; one theory describes a world in which chaotic behavior is pervasive, and the other a world in which it is almost entirely absent. Did quantum mechanics simply replace classical mechanics as the new universal theory? Do they each describe their own distinct domains of phenomena? Or is one theory really just a continuation of the other?

In the philosophy literature, this sort of issue is known as the problem of intertheoretic relations. Currently, there are two accepted philosophical frameworks for thinking about intertheoric relations: the first is reductionism, and the second, pluralism. As we shall see, these labels each actually describe a family of related views.