Realism and Antirealism in Informational Foundations of Quantum Theory

Tina Bilban


Zeilinger-Brukner's informational foundations of quantum theory, a theory based on Zeilinger's foundational principle for quantum mechanics that an elementary system carried one bit of information, explains seemingly unintuitive quantum behavior with simple theoretical framework. It is based on the notion that distinction between reality and information cannot be made, therefore they are the same. As the critics of informational foundations of quantum theory show, this antirealistic move captures the theory in tautology, where information only refers to itself, while the relationships outside the information with the help of which the nature of information would be defined are lost and the questions "Whose information? Information about what?" cannot be answered. The critic's solution is a return to realism, where the observer's effects on the information are neglected. We show that radical antirealism of informational foundations of quantum theory is not necessary and that the return to realism is not the only way forward. A comprehensive approach that exceeds mere realism and antirealism is also possible: we can consider both sources of the constraints on the information, those coming from the observer and those coming from the observed system/nature/reality. The information is always the observer's information about the observed. Such a comprehensive philosophical approach can still support the theoretical framework of informational foundations of quantum theory: If we take that one bit is the smallest amount of information in the form of which the observed reality can be grasped by the observer, we can say that an elementary system (grasped and defined as such by the observer) correlates to one bit of information. Our approach thus explains all the features of the quantum behavior explained by informational foundations of quantum theory: the wave function and its collapse, entanglement, complementarity and quantum randomness. However, it does so in a more comprehensive and intuitive way. The presented approach is close to Husserl's explanation of the relationship between reality and the knowledge we have about it, and to Bohr's personal explanation of quantum mechanics, the complexity of which has often been missed and simplified to mere antirealism. Our approach thus reconnects phenomenology with contemporary philosophy of science and introduces the comprehensive approach that exceeds mere realism and antirealism to the field of quantum theories with informational foundations, where such an approach has not been taken before.

Quanta 2014; 3: 32–42.

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