Holism and Time Symmetry

Peter J. Lewis


Quantum mechanics is often taken to entail holism. I examine the arguments for this claim, and find that although there is no general argument from the structure of quantum mechanics to holism, there are specific arguments for holism available within the three main realist interpretations (Bohm, Ghirardi-Rimini-Weber and many-worlds). However, Evans, Price and Wharton's sideways Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen-Bell example challenges the holistic conclusion. I show how the symmetry between the sideways and standard Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen-Bell set-ups can be used to argue against holism. I evaluate the prospects for extending this insight to more general quantum systems, with a view to producing a genuinely time-symmetric hidden variable theory. I conclude that, although this extension undermines the analogy between the sideways and standard cases, quantum mechanics without holism remains a live possibility.

Quanta 2016; 5: 85–92.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.12743/quanta.v5i1.51

ISSN: 1314-7374