Quantum Mechanics and the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (American Philosophy)

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9780823250127: Quantum Mechanics and the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (American Philosophy)

In Process and Reality and other works, Alfred North Whitehead struggled to come to terms with the impact the new science of quantum mechanics would have on his metaphysics. This ambitious book is the first extended analysis of the intricate relationships between quantum mechanics and Whitehead's philosophical cosmology.

Moving systematically--concept by concept, phase by phase--Michael Epperson illuminates the intersection of science and philosophy in Whitehead's work, and details Whitehead's attempt to fashion an ontology capable of coherently accommodating the current and future trajectory of modern physics.

But going far beyond this exploration, Epperson also makes important new contributions to the conceptualization of Whitehead's theory of quantum events ('actual occasions'), addressing the considerable attention paid by philosophers and other scholars to Nature's fundamentally quantum character as described by modern physics.
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"Quantum mechanics is one of the empirically best confirmed physical theories ever. Moreover, it has been and still is an important instrument in planning and evaluating new experiments in many areas of physics and an indispensable tool for the development of new technologies. However, despite its extremely wide and successful range of application, some important questions concerning its proper interpretation are still not settled. In this context one of the most important questions is clearly to which ontology quantum mechanics gives rise, i.e., of what kinds of fundamental entities the world probably consists (e.g. particles, fields, events, processes, spacetime regions/points, etc.), if one assumes that quantum mechanics is telling us a true story about the world.
 
"Epperson has done a wonderful job in showing what one of the most detailed (and surely, one of the most difficult) metaphysical theories of the 20th century--Whitehead's philosophy of process--contributes to the ongoing debate about the proper ontological interpretation of quantum mechanics. Therefore, the book is highly recommended to anybody working on or being seriously interested in the ontology of quantum physics. Moreover, it is a "must read" for students of Whitehead's philosophy, since it will deepen their understanding of Whitehead's quite abstract scheme, to see quantum mechanics as a specific exemplification of some of the central structures of the philosophy of process."
 
Frank Hättich - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
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Including a nonspecialist introduction to quantum mechanics, Epperson adds an essential new dimension to our understanding of the architecture and meaning of Whitehead's metaphysics--and of the constantly enriching encounter between science and philosophy in our century.

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From the Inside Flap:

"Starting from recent interpretations of paradoxical experiments in quantum physics--such as those on nonlocality and decoherence--Michael Epperson has done a wonderful job of exploring in detail the remarkable parallels in Alfred North Whitehead's philosophical analysis of the transition from potentiality to actuality in elementary events."

IAN G. BARBOUR, author of "Religion and Science" (Gifford Lectures Series)

"Many of us in the 'process' community have felt a general congruity between Whitehead's cosmology and quantum theory, even though the latter may have directly affected Whitehead's conceptuality only tangentially. We have been glad that in the past decade there has been growing interest among quantum theorists in Whitehead's thought. We especially welcome this remarkable volume. It proposes a correlation of Whitehead's quite technical analysis of the phases of the concrescence of momentary occasions and the strange account of quantum events to which the evidence has driven physicists. At the very least, Michael Epperson has put forward ideas that warrant close attention and point fruitful directions for further inquiry. We may have here a still more successful work, which provides a definitive philosophical ground for quantum theory. In either case, this is an important, as well as a brilliant, book."

JOHN B. COBB, JR., Director, Center for Process Studies

"Coming at a time when interest in correlating physics and Whitehead's philosophy has been expanding exponentially, the appearance of Epperson's book is an event of first importance. Employing the decoherence-based interpretation of quantum mechanics, Epperson shows that it can be correlated rather precisely with Whitehead's notion of 'concrescence.' Besides thereby showing how Whitehead's philosophy brings out the ontological significance of quantum mechanics, Epperson also demonstrates that students of Whitehead's philosophy will understand it better by seeing quantum mechanics as a specific exemplification of its general principles."

DAVID RAY GRIFFIN, author of "Religion and Scientific Naturalism: Overcoming the Conflicts"

About the Author:

Michael Epperson did his doctoral work in philosophy of science and philosophy of religion at The University of Chicago, and earned his Ph.D. there in 2003. His dissertation, Quantum Mechanics and the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, was written under the direction of philosopher David Tracy and physicist Peter Hodgson, Head of the Nuclear Physics Theoretical Group at the University of Oxford. It was published the following year by Fordham University Press, and re-released in paperback by Oxford University Press in 2012. His latest book, Foundations of Relational Realism: A Topological Approach to Quantum Mechanics and the Philosophy of Nature, co-authored with physicist and mathematician Elias Zafiris, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2013.

Epperson is the founding director of the Center for Philosophy and the Natural Sciences in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at California State University, Sacramento, where he is a Research Professor and Principal Investigator.

Epperson's philosophical interests also include ethics and just war theory, and his work in these areas includes the 2005 documentary film, The 11th Day: Crete 1941 (writer, producer) which chronicles the story of the Cretan civilian resistance against German occupation in World War II. The documentary received critical acclaim in publications including The Chicago Tribune, Canada's National Post, The Sacramento Bee, and Newsday. Exhibitions have included a special advance screening requested by members of the United States Congress in 2004, held at the Capitol, and at the British Embassy in Athens, Greece in 2009.

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