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The same question, angled a little differently suggests a family resemblence with the measurement paradox in QM:

First and most broadly, QM is standardly said to have an ontology inadequate to its needs, and this must mean by classical conceptions of time and motion; and here we have Aristotle pointing out that ordinary simple motion when thought through classically is also inadequate when the actual facts are confronted.

Does Aristotle have anything to say about the interpretative paradoxes of QM? Has there been any useful discussions?

Something along these lines might be:

  1. Being is the limit of Becoming; the act of measurement actualises the motion of potential motions

  2. Being and Becoming are ontologically distinct - and Becoming is a continua; as actuality and potentiality; and the act of measurement and continuous motion of a wave evolving its potentialities.


In relational QM it's suggested that:

From this perspective, the real events of the world are the 'realisation' (the coming to reality, the actualisation) of the values q1,q2,q3 in the course of interaction between physical systems.

Which appears to have some consonance with the above - particularly when one considers that QM (leaving out the magic word Quantum) is a theory of motion.

  • 1
    Referring to your second point, I do not understand the passage after the hypen. - You often pose questions which aim at paralleling antique philosophical notions with notion from contemporary physics. For me, it is often not obvious that there is a relation at all. I would like to ask you: What is your motivation for this type of questions?
    – Jo Wehler
    Dec 2, 2015 at 11:45
  • @wehler: because I like juxtoposition; and also because I happen to like antiquity; but also because I was startled to see that there were things said by Aristotle which simply aren't said in standard physics textbooks: its something that both Maudlin and Rovelli have said about Aristotles Physics is a profound investigation into general physical notions - in which case it may, if pressed, speak to us. Dec 2, 2015 at 12:34
  • Well, the sentences after the hyphen are a quick sketch - so I'm not surprised its difficult to parse; but I was looking for pointers to prior literature: there's no point reduplicating work that's already been done. Dec 2, 2015 at 12:38
  • It's because it's couched in general terms that one can suppose that there are general relations - it's only something that's become clearer with close re-reading; Aristotle, by the way, is different from Aristotelianism - if that's your concern. Dec 2, 2015 at 12:42
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    Whitehead delves into this pretty deeply in Science and the Modern World, and he seems to think that Aristotle might have been adequate, but Newton strengthened assumptions that seem implicit in Aristotle to us, but would not have been so for earlier inheritors. He works from the premise that we have a natural organic understanding that covers nature and works for relativity and QM. He tries to make the case that our basic notions of change and adaptation hardened as we became more mechanically oriented and our model of natural law went from plants and animals to objects and machines.
    – user9166
    Mar 24, 2016 at 16:45

1 Answer 1


Heisenberg recognized in his Physics and Philosophy that the probability wave concept in quantum mechanics (p. 41)

was a quantitative version of the concept of 'potentia' in Aristotelian philosophy

and that the (p. 80)

concept of the soul for instance in the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas was more natural and less forced than the Cartesian concept of 'res cogitans,' even if we are convinced that the laws of physics and chemistry are strictly valid in living organisms.

Smith, Wolfgang. The Quantum Enigma: Finding the Hidden Key. Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2005.
and the resources here

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