Worlds in a stochastic universe : on the emergence of world histories in minimal Bohmian Mechanics

  • Alexander EHMANN

Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


This thesis develops a detailed account of the emergence of for all practical purposes continuous, quasi-classical world histories from the discontinuous, stochastic micro dynamics of Minimal Bohmian Mechanics (MBM). MBM is a non-relativistic quantum theory. It results from excising the guiding equation from standard Bohmian Mechanics (BM) and reinterpreting the quantum equilibrium hypothesis as a stochastic guidance law for the random actualization of configurations of Bohmian particles. On MBM, there are no continuous trajectories linking up individual configurations. Instead, individual configurations are actualized independently of each other, carving out the decoherence-induced branching structure of the universal wave function. Yet, by contrast to the Everett interpretation, branches of the universal wave function are not actualized in parallel, i.e. all at the same time. Rather, world branches, on MBM, are actualized sequentially.

For an introduction to MBM, the transition from BM to MBM is described, and their empirical equivalence is established. I present the conditions under which MBM can be classified as a primitive ontology (PO) theory, regarded as crucial for the acceptance of a theory as Bohmian by many proponents of BM. While rendering MBM compatible with the PO approach, it must not fall prey to the problem of communication, arising from the two-space reading of BM.

The issue of temporal solipsism, identified by Bell as a serious problem for his “Everett (?) theory” – the historic predecessor of MBM – is discussed. I argue that Barbour’s time capsule approach does not provide a satisfactory solution. In particular, his adopting a more than minimal psychophysical parallelism between brain processes and experience of macroscopic change is argued to be reasonable in light of our current best neuroscience, yet problematic for theories relying solely on time capsules, understood as highly structured, individual, internally static configurations. As a solution, I introduce worlds, and world histories, as key concepts in providing a link between MBM’s micro dynamics and macroscopic phenomena. Worlds, other than time capsules, are coarse-grained regions in phase- or configuration space, defined as sets of possible micro states satisfying a relation of sufficient similarity from a macroscopic perspective, with respect to a given micro state. Hence, worlds may overlap.

I argue that worlds thus construed are a reasonable option for replacing the disjoint macro regions of phase space, resulting from the usual way of partitioning phase space in the standard framework of Boltzmannian statistical mechanics. This move solves the issue of discontinuous change of macro variables upon the micro state crossing the boundary between different macro regions.

I adapt this move for MBM’s discontinuous micro dynamics in configuration space. Issues revolving around the microscopic-macroscopic distinction, particle identity, impenetrability and haecceity in light of the desideratum of particle number conservation, etc., are discussed. I provide a detailed explanation of how overlapping worlds in MBM form world histories, thereby linking up macroscopically distinct worlds. Thus, the problem of temporal solipsism is resolved in a way that is compatible with a more than minimal psychophysical parallelism.

Date of Award12 Oct 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorDarrell Patrick ROWBOTTOM (Supervisor) & Jiji ZHANG (Supervisor)

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