NBA History of Science Seminar: Jan Faye

Jan Faye (University of Copenhagen), “Is Bohr’s Philosophy Relevant Today?”

Jan Faye
Jan Faye, University of Copenhagen.

This talk is based on the book project “Reassessing Niels Bohr’s Philosophy: 100 years of Interpreting Quantum Mechanics”, which I am writing together with Rasmus Jaksland (Department of Science Education, University of Copenhagen).  The overall purpose is to show that Bohr was a naturalist, and that much of his thinking is best explained in terms of human evolution. For instance, it has been argued that Bohr’s insistence on the use of classical concepts in understanding quantum mechanics is the least convincing part of his philosophy. However, I intend to show that this is the strongest part of this philosophy if we allow ourselves to read Bohr as a naturalist. Moreover, I intend to present evidence that such a reading is the proper one, and that it supersedes earlier interpretations of Bohr’s thoughts. If we therefore take into consideration that cognitive science and evolutionary biology have developed tremendously up to now by assuming that the human cognitive apparatus is a result of natural selection and adaptation, these considerations indicate that Bohr’s understanding of quantum mechanics, by being supported by this development, is as modern as ever.

Jan Faye is emeritus Associate Professor at the Department of Communication at the University of Copenhagen.