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Eddy Keming Chen
University of California, San Diego
  1. Surreal Decisions.Eddy Keming Chen & Daniel Rubio - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (1):54-74.
    Although expected utility theory has proven a fruitful and elegant theory in the finite realm, attempts to generalize it to infinite values have resulted in many paradoxes. In this paper, we argue that the use of John Conway's surreal numbers shall provide a firm mathematical foundation for transfinite decision theory. To that end, we prove a surreal representation theorem and show that our surreal decision theory respects dominance reasoning even in the case of infinite values. We then bring our theory (...)
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  2. Realism About the Wave Function.Eddy Keming Chen - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (7).
    A century after the discovery of quantum mechanics, the meaning of quantum mechanics still remains elusive. This is largely due to the puzzling nature of the wave function, the central object in quantum mechanics. If we are realists about quantum mechanics, how should we understand the wave function? What does it represent? What is its physical meaning? Answering these questions would improve our understanding of what it means to be a realist about quantum mechanics. In this survey article, I review (...)
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  3. Quantum Mechanics in a Time-Asymmetric Universe: On the Nature of the Initial Quantum State.Eddy Keming Chen - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (4):1155–1183.
    In a quantum universe with a strong arrow of time, we postulate a low-entropy boundary condition to account for the temporal asymmetry. In this paper, I show that the Past Hypothesis also contains enough information to simplify the quantum ontology and define a unique initial condition in such a world. First, I introduce Density Matrix Realism, the thesis that the quantum universe is described by a fundamental density matrix that represents something objective. This stands in sharp contrast to Wave Function (...)
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  4. ​​Our Fundamental Physical Space: An Essay on the Metaphysics of the Wave Function.Eddy Keming Chen - 2017 - Journal of Philosophy 114 (7):333-365.
    The mathematical structure of realist quantum theories has given rise to a debate about how our ordinary 3-dimensional space is related to the 3N-dimensional configuration space on which the wave function is defined. Which of the two spaces is our (more) fundamental physical space? I review the debate between 3N-Fundamentalists and 3D-Fundamentalists and evaluate it based on three criteria. I argue that when we consider which view leads to a deeper understanding of the physical world, especially given the deeper topological (...)
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  5. Time's Arrow in a Quantum Universe: On the Status of Statistical Mechanical Probabilities.Eddy Keming Chen - 2020 - In Valia Allori (ed.), Statistical Mechanics and Scientific Explanation: Determinism, Indeterminism and Laws of Nature. World Scientific. pp. 479–515.
    In a quantum universe with a strong arrow of time, it is standard to postulate that the initial wave function started in a particular macrostate---the special low-entropy macrostate selected by the Past Hypothesis. Moreover, there is an additional postulate about statistical mechanical probabilities according to which the initial wave function is a ''typical'' choice in the macrostate. Together, they support a probabilistic version of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: typical initial wave functions will increase in entropy. Hence, there are two (...)
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  6. Bell’s Theorem, Quantum Probabilities, and Superdeterminism.Eddy Keming Chen - 2021 - In Eleanor Knox & Alastair Wilson (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Physics. Routledge.
    In this short survey article, I discuss Bell’s theorem and some strategies that attempt to avoid the conclusion of non-locality. I focus on two that intersect with the philosophy of probability: (1) quantum probabilities and (2) superdeterminism. The issues they raised not only apply to a wide class of no-go theorems about quantum mechanics but are also of general philosophical interest.
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  7. The Past Hypothesis and the Nature of Physical Laws.Eddy Keming Chen - forthcoming - In Barry Loewer, Eric Winsberg & Brad Weslake (eds.), Time's Arrows and the Probability Structure of the World. Harvard University Press.
    If the Past Hypothesis underlies the arrows of time, what is the status of the Past Hypothesis? In this paper, I examine the role of the Past Hypothesis in the Boltzmannian account and defend the view that the Past Hypothesis is a candidate fundamental law of nature. Such a view is known to be compatible with Humeanism about laws, but as I argue it is also supported by a minimal non-Humean "governing'' view. Some worries arise from the non-dynamical and time-dependent (...)
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  8.  44
    The Intrinsic Structure of Quantum Mechanics.Eddy Keming Chen - 2019 - In Essays on the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. New Brunswick, NJ: PhD dissertation, Rutgers University. pp. Chapter 1.
    The wave function in quantum mechanics presents an interesting challenge to our understanding of the physical world. In this paper, I show that the wave function can be understood as four intrinsic relations on physical space. My account has three desirable features that the standard account lacks: it does not refer to any abstract mathematical objects, it is free from the usual arbitrary conventions, and it explains why the wave function has its gauge degrees of freedom, something that are usually (...)
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  9. Fundamental Nomic Vagueness.Eddy Keming Chen - 2022 - Philosophical Review 131 (1):1-49.
    If there are fundamental laws of nature, can they fail to be exact? In this paper, I consider the possibility that some fundamental laws are vague. I call this phenomenon 'fundamental nomic vagueness.' I characterize fundamental nomic vagueness as the existence of borderline lawful worlds and the presence of several other accompanying features. Under certain assumptions, such vagueness prevents the fundamental physical theory from being completely expressible in the mathematical language. Moreover, I suggest that such vagueness can be regarded as (...)
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  10.  91
    Quantum States of a Time-Asymmetric Universe: Wave Function, Density Matrix, and Empirical Equivalence.Eddy Keming Chen - 2019 - Dissertation, Rutgers University - New Brunswick
    What is the quantum state of the universe? Although there have been several interesting suggestions, the question remains open. In this paper, I consider a natural choice for the universal quantum state arising from the Past Hypothesis, a boundary condition that accounts for the time-asymmetry of the universe. The natural choice is given not by a wave function but by a density matrix. I begin by classifying quantum theories into two types: theories with a fundamental wave function and theories with (...)
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  11. Governing Without A Fundamental Direction of Time: Minimal Primitivism About Laws of Nature.Eddy Keming Chen & Sheldon Goldstein - 2022 - In Yemima Ben-Menahem (ed.), Rethinking the Concept of Law of Nature. Cham: Springer. pp. 21-64.
    The Great Divide in metaphysical debates about laws of nature is between Humeans, who think that laws merely describe the distribution of matter, and non-Humeans, who think that laws govern it. The metaphysics can place demands on the proper formulations of physical theories. It is sometimes assumed that the governing view requires a fundamental / intrinsic direction of time: to govern, laws must be dynamical, producing later states of the world from earlier ones, in accord with the fundamental direction of (...)
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  12. From Time Asymmetry to Quantum Entanglement: The Humean Unification.Eddy Keming Chen - 2022 - Noûs 56 (1):227-255.
    Two of the most difficult problems in the foundations of physics are (1) what gives rise to the arrow of time and (2) what the ontology of quantum mechanics is. I propose a unified 'Humean' solution to the two problems. Humeanism allows us to incorporate the Past Hypothesis and the Statistical Postulate into the best system, which we then use to simplify the quantum state of the universe. This enables us to confer the nomological status to the quantum state in (...)
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  13. The Cosmic Void.Eddy Keming Chen - 2021 - In Sara Bernstein & Tyron Goldschmidt (eds.), Non-Being: New Essays on the Metaphysics of Nonexistence. Oxford University Press.
    What exists at the fundamental level of reality? On the standard picture, the fundamental reality contains (among other things) fundamental matter, such as particles, fields, or even the quantum state. Non-fundamental facts are explained by facts about fundamental matter, at least in part. In this paper, I introduce a non-standard picture called the "cosmic void” in which the universe is devoid of any fundamental material ontology. Facts about tables and chairs are recovered from a special kind of laws that satisfy (...)
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  14. Welcome to the Fuzzy-Verse.Eddy Keming Chen - 2020 - New Scientist 247 (3298):36-40.
    We expect the laws of nature that describe the universe to be exact, but what if that isn't true? In this popular science article, I discuss the possibility that some candidate fundamental laws of nature, such as the Past Hypothesis, may be vague. This possibility is in conflict with the idea that the fundamental laws of nature can always and faithfully be described by classical mathematics. -/- [Bibliographic note: this article is featured on the magazine website under a different title (...)
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  15. The Simplicity of Physical Laws.Eddy Keming Chen - manuscript
    Physical laws are strikingly simple, although there is no a priori reason they must be so. I propose that nomic realists of all types (Humeans and non-Humeans) should accept that simplicity is a fundamental epistemic guide for discovering and evaluating candidate physical laws. This principle of simplicity clarifies and solves several problems of nomic realism and simplicity. A consequence is that the often-cited epistemic advantage of Humeanism over non-Humeanism is exaggerated, undercutting an influential epistemological argument for Humeanism. Moreover, simplicity is (...)
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  16. An Intrinsic Theory of Quantum Mechanics: Progress in Field's Nominalistic Program, Part I.Eddy Keming Chen - manuscript
    In this paper, I introduce an intrinsic account of the quantum state. This account contains three desirable features that the standard platonistic account lacks: (1) it does not refer to any abstract mathematical objects such as complex numbers, (2) it is independent of the usual arbitrary conventions in the wave function representation, and (3) it explains why the quantum state has its amplitude and phase degrees of freedom. -/- Consequently, this account extends Hartry Field’s program outlined in Science Without Numbers (...)
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  17.  24
    Uniform Probability Distribution Over All Density Matrices.Eddy Keming Chen & Roderich Tumulka - 2022 - Quantum Studies: Mathematics and Foundations.
    Let ℋ be a finite-dimensional complex Hilbert space and D the set of density matrices on ℋ, i.e., the positive operators with trace 1. Our goal in this note is to identify a probability measure u on D that can be regarded as the uniform distribution over D. We propose a measure on D, argue that it can be so regarded, discuss its properties, and compute the joint distribution of the eigenvalues of a random density matrix distributed according to this (...)
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  18. Strong Determinism.Eddy Keming Chen - manuscript
    A strongly deterministic theory of physics is one that permits exactly one possible history of the universe. In the words of Penrose (1989), "it is not just a matter of the future being determined by the past; the entire history of the universe is fixed, according to some precise mathematical scheme, for all time.” Such an extraordinary feature may appear unattainable in any realistic and simple theory of physics. In this paper, I propose a definition of strong determinism and contrast (...)
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  19.  25
    The Wentaculus: Density Matrix Realism Meets the Arrow of Time.Eddy Keming Chen - manuscript
    Two of the most difficult problems in the foundations of physics are (1) what gives rise to the arrow of time and (2) what the ontology of quantum mechanics is. They are difficult because the fundamental dynamical laws of physics do not privilege an arrow of time, and the quantum-mechanical wave function describes a high-dimensional reality that is radically different from our ordinary experiences. -/- In this paper, I characterize and elaborate on the ``Wentaculus” theory, a new approach to time’s (...)
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  20.  26
    The Quantum Wave Function Isn't Real.Eddy Keming Chen - 2022 - The Institute of Art and Ideas.
    In this popular article, I suggest that the task of interpreting quantum mechanics becomes easier if we reject the view that the quantum universe must be described by a wave function. We should zoom out from the wave function and represent the universe with something more coarse-grained, one that naturally arises from considerations about the Past Hypothesis. The new proposal is called the Wentaculus.
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  21. Essays on the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics.Eddy Keming Chen - 2019 - Dissertation, Rutgers University, New Brunswick
    What is the proper metaphysics of quantum mechanics? In this dissertation, I approach the question from three different but related angles. First, I suggest that the quantum state can be understood intrinsically as relations holding among regions in ordinary space-time, from which we can recover the wave function uniquely up to an equivalence class (by representation and uniqueness theorems). The intrinsic account eliminates certain conventional elements (e.g. overall phase) in the representation of the quantum state. It also dispenses with first-order (...)
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  22. Time's Arrow and Self‐Locating Probability.Eddy Keming Chen - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    One of the most difficult problems in the foundations of physics is what gives rise to the arrow of time. Since the fundamental dynamical laws of physics are (essentially) symmetric in time, the explanation for time's arrow must come from elsewhere. A promising explanation introduces a special cosmological initial condition, now called the Past Hypothesis: the universe started in a low-entropy state. Unfortunately, in a universe where there are many copies of us (in the distant ''past'' or the distant ''future''), (...)
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  23. The Quantum Revolution in Philosophy. [REVIEW]Eddy Keming Chen - 2020 - Philosophical Review 129 (2):302-308.
    In this thought-provoking book, Richard Healey proposes a new interpretation of quantum theory inspired by pragmatist philosophy. Healey puts forward the interpretation as an alternative to realist quantum theories on the one hand such as Bohmian mechanics, spontaneous collapse theories, and many-worlds interpretations, which are different proposals for describing what the quantum world is like and what the basic laws of physics are, and non-realist interpretations on the other hand such as quantum Bayesianism, which proposes to understand quantum theory as (...)
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