We seem to get endless variations on the same question on the SE about QM and causality.

I'm not really sure whether they're duplicates, near duplicates, or somehow different but I figured at a minimum we could start tracking these in this thread to see if there's a solution to the endless recurring of the same.

One aspect that seems to crop up consistently in these questions are competing answers based on different interpretations of QM.

Is the delayed choice quantum eraser a refutation of principle of causality? How does contemporary philosophy make sense of it?

Quantum Mechanics and Free Will

Does quantum mechanics suggest that our scientific method is flawed?

In which way does quantum mechanics disprove determinism?

  • Do you think there are different interpretations due to there being different interpretations of QM among experts? Or because different people have read different things and lack a complete understanding? Sep 29, 2015 at 16:45
  • 1
    I am confident both factors contribute but completely unable to guess how much each factor contributes. One problem I think the questions generate is that people argue the science rather than answer the philosophy. I get that it's hard to avoid when you think you're reading something completely wrong.
    – virmaior
    Sep 29, 2015 at 23:14
  • There are (potentially) different things being probed by these questions: causality, determinism, free will and (scientific) realism. Maybe a canonical question/answer could cover all of these aspects in one go, but it seems to me that it would require making the connections between these ideas clear.
    – Dave
    Sep 30, 2015 at 15:39
  • Can we tag this philosophy.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3777/33787 in here?
    – christo183
    Oct 24, 2018 at 14:10

3 Answers 3


I see three issues here in conflict. First, this stack has a well defined mission that explicitly does not include engaging in speculative discussions.

Second, legitimate dialog on unresolved issues relevant to physics deserves a space somewhere in the stacks; probably the most suitable exchange would be the Theoretical Physics. Stack Exchange. Unfortunately, it is looking a closure for lack of participation.

Third, the fact remains that there are two well-entrenched camps regarding the interpretation of the Double-Split Experiment(DSE) and a plethora of competing alternative interpretations. Unfortunately, the DSE is in the first pages of the first lecture for Intro to QM, but the lecture is silent about the controversy. Yet even a novice can sense something terribly flawed in any of the current interpretations. See: Wiki.Double-Slit Experiment or Entanglement or Wave Collapse. So, it has become the traditional first stumbling block, and it deserves a more comprehensive treatment that acknowledges the unresolved nature of the DSE interpretation. Then, moving the DSE questioner becomes a "congratulations for paying attention and for having the courage to ask skeptical questions. Now your answer lies here."

I submit that the barrage of continuing duplication of the same concerns and confusion should be taken as evidence that we have not yet answered the question even for the ears of a beginner!

  • Very insightful. I'm not really a philosopher of physics but this seems right to me (I do modern and comparative philosophy primarily).
    – virmaior
    Jul 4, 2017 at 15:43

Just some comments on this:

  1. There's an article on the SEP on backward causation that is useful in this context.

  2. Also useful is Bohmian Mechanics which is an important alternative interpretation; it's a 'hidden-variables' theory; so ought to be realist; but one needs to handle non-locality.

  3. The SEP doesn't have an article on causal sets; it should do; it's takes a theorem in GR - Malaments Theorem - that it's geometry is determined by its causal structure; so it's a theory not of QM but of QG; Rafael Sorkin is the motivating force behind this; interestingly he also suggests that Presentism or Growing-Block Time which was ruled by GR, ought to be a live possibility here.

  4. Malament is responsible for the Simultaneity Conventionality Thesis which does have an article in the SEP.

  5. There are also Brownian motion models of QM; which are obviously realist.

  6. Of course there is Aristotles theory of what it means for a cause of change to be as such; there must be more modern works that develop his arguments.

  7. The traditional interpretation - invented in Copenhagen - has infamously the measurement problem which a modern solution is decoherence; the realist explanations like Bohmian mechanics nor the Brownian QM primae facie suffer from

  8. This isn't quite relevant to the topic: but it seems to me that it is philosophically relevant - because the reverse is often taken to be true (possibly mainly by Reichenbach); and that is to what extent Kant had on the development of non-Euclidean Geometry; interestingly I've seen in one possibly reputable place that:

Gauss read the Kants critique 5 times because he was interested in how Kant conceptualised space; and Kant said Euclid was right; and who was Gauss to say otherwise.

Except Kant does (synthetic) and doesn't (analytic) as the paper by Cavailles shows; and actually I looked at the Cambridge Edition of the Critique, which verifies the claim.

It would be useful to see to what actual extent Kant influenced Gauss; I find it incredible had he read the critique to have missed this; but I might be primed here by hindsight.

  1. On the same theme there are thermodynamic and entropic explanations of GR; ie curvature of spacetime might not be a neccessary theoretic or 'discursive' concept...again useful to consider in terms of the standard critique on Kants theory of space.

Just for comparison, I've gathered up the sentences ending with a question mark from these posts.

  • Is the delayed choice quantum eraser a refutation of principle of causality? (How does contemporary philosophy make sense and incorporates this latest scientific finding?)

  • I understand that the state may not be calculated before hand due to various reasons, but does that not change the fact that there is only one definite outcome? In the end, there will only be one outcome for the system? ...If free will were possible, wouldn't it require the ability for an event to occur without a predecessor, thereby violating causality?

  • If the effect in some experiments can precede their cause, does that mean our basic scientific method is flawed?

  • The last question is basically its own title (In which way does quantum mechanics disprove determinism?), but has these questions in it: Could anyone provide some more background about this? Especially regarding quantum mechanics?

With the possible exception of the first question, these do all feel very similar conceptually.

I would suggest we try to construct a canonical Q&A here, and then close-as-dup most of the rest of these.

The SEP has as usual a very well-grounded and nuanced article on QM that might be useful for gathering initial large-scale context.


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