Quantum Theory: Realism or Pragmatism?
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During his long and extraordinarily productive career Hilary Putnam occasionally flirted with pragmatism. But his scientific realism provided a fixed point of his attempts to interpret quantum theory. I have argued recently that pragmatist treatments of representation, explanation and probability are keys to understanding how we use quantum theory so successfully, and so how it should be interpreted. For Putnam, scientific realism is itself a scientific hypothesis that explains the success of science. If I am right, the success of quantum theory undermines this kind of scientific realism while supporting a rival pragmatism. Scientific realism remains immune to empirical refutation if it is viewed not as a scientific hypothesis but as a regulative ideal. But a pragmatist view of quantum theory poses a challenge to a certain kind of metaphysical realism.