Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Information Theory

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link






The principle aim of this dissertation is to investigate the philosophical application of quantum information theory to interpretational issues regarding the theory of quantum mechanics. Recently, quantum information theory has emerged as a potential source for such an interpretation. The main question with which this dissertation will be concerned is whether or not an information-theoretic interpretation can serve as a conceptually acceptable interpretation of quantum mechanics. It will be argued that some of the more obvious approaches - that quantum information theory shows us that ultimately the world is made of information, and quantum Bayesianism - fail as philosophical interpretations of quantum mechanics. However, the information-theoretic approach of Clifton, Bub, and Halvorson introduces Einstein's distinction between principle theories and constructive theories, arguing that quantum mechanics is best understood as an information-theoretic principle theory. While I argue that this particular approach fails, it does offer a viable new philosophical role for information theory. Specifically, an investigation of interpretationally successful principle theories such as Newtonian mechanics, special relativity, and general relativity, shows that the particular principles employed are necessary as constitutive elements of a framework which partially defines the basic explanatory concepts of space, time, and motion. Without such constitutive principles as preconditions for empirical meaning, scientific progress is hampered. It is argued that the philosophical issues in quantum mechanics stem from an analogous conceptual crisis. On the basis of this comparison, the best strategy for resolving these problems is to apply a similar sort of conceptual analysis to quantum mechanics so as to provide an appropriate set of constitutive principles clarifying the conceptual issues at stake. It is further argued that quantum information theory is ideally placed as a novel conceptual framework from which to conduct this analysis.