Kants copernican revolution placed the observer squarely back into universe. The universe wasn't just an objective reality out there, but also entangled up in our own ways of knowing and perceiving at a fundamental level, that is our understanding of what is space and what is time.

Did his thought have an impact on the acceptance of the copenhagen interpretation of QM where the observer is required to collapse the 'wave-function' and render an observation macroscopically visible?

Note: Poincare had read Kant - he thought that Kants noumena were the unobservable referents for a theory; for example,the gravity field - and he was involved in the research effort to understand relativity and plancks quanta - (not QM unfortunately), I'm mentioning this to show that the scientific research community wasn't completely unaware of developments in philosophy.

Of course, Kant made a number of contributions to scientific thought, So that may have helped to establish his reputation & circulate his ideas amongst the physics research community.

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    This could be a tricky question to untangle, depending on whether you're interested in entertaining the extent to which Kant's thought had permeated (a) popular culture, (b) scientific education, and (c) the mentality of research physicists in particular. Evidence for these would allow you to conclude "quite possibly" with a high degree of confidence. More interesting might be to determine if the original advocates of the Copenhagen interpretation (most especially Bohr, who these days is imagined to have a Paul-like role with respect to Copenhagen) specifically cite Kant. – Niel de Beaudrap Sep 20 '12 at 15:45
  • I was thinking mostly along b & c. Kant did do scientific work (Lord Kelvin cites him approvingly) so that might have helped diffusion of his meta-physical doctrines amongst scientific circles. If there is any evidence that Bohr had read Kant that would do very nicely. – Mozibur Ullah Sep 20 '12 at 21:16

My meager understanding of the history of physics goes that Einstein's papers on General and Special Relativity provoked, along with experimental results, of course, the physicists of the time into quantum theory. So, if Einstein's work got influenced by Kant, then so does quantum mechanics.

Einstein read the Critique of Pure Reason at 12 and considered him his favorite philosopher for a while. Perhaps that early reading of Kant influenced Einstein his whole life. Reading Kant eventually lead him to studying David Hume (see p. 20 of Walter Isaacson's biography of Einstein). Back in college I remember hearing that When Einstein wrote at least one of his two famous papers he tried to incorporate Humean principles. So, it ends up unmistakeably the case that the scientific research community wasn't completely unaware of developments in philosophy. Spinoza's writings also influenced Einstein.

  • From a physical perspective I've only heard that he attempted to include Machian principles into his theory - that he also attempted to incorporate Humean principles is very interesting. Do you recall how he attempted this? – Mozibur Ullah Sep 24 '12 at 4:25
  • However note that Einstein opposed the Copenhagen interpretation. – celtschk Sep 24 '12 at 18:24
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    @MoziburUllah No, I just heard a philosophy professor say Einstein did try to use Hume's ideas. – Doug Spoonwood Sep 25 '12 at 3:20
  • @celtschk: he wasn't happy about chucking out determinism. His physical intuition let him down there. Its intriguing to know that the ancient greek atomists added in chance specifically to account for free-will. – Mozibur Ullah Sep 25 '12 at 6:07
  • It would be somewhat strange indeed for Einstein to be a conduit for Kantian influence upon Copenhagen, given not only his Machian leanings and his leading role as an opponent to the Copenhagen Interpretation, but also in that Einstein's account of Relativity shows that Euclidean geometry is in fact only an approximate description of space and time, contra Kant. – Niel de Beaudrap Sep 25 '12 at 13:05

The SEP, in Measurement & Quantum Theory has

According to this realist point of view, ideal observations not only reflect the way things are during but also immediately before and after observation...such realism was opposed by both Bohr and Heisenberg...but whereas Bohr's opposition was rooted in a neo-Kantian relationalism that reversed Kant by externalizing the inner mental faculties, Heisenberg opposed Einstein from a more straightforwardly positivistic standpoint that disagreed not only with Einstein but also with Bohr.

this paper by Carsten Held, a philosopher of science, argues for a Kantian influence but offers no evidence.

Although there is no direct evidence that Bohr had read Kant, Paul McEvoy writes in Niels Bohr: Reflections on Object & Subject

"There are a number of parallels that suggest themselves immediately in a comparison of the enterprises of Kant & Bohr...[but] in spite of these parallels, there is no evidence that Bohr was substantially influenced by the particulars of either Kants epistemological theory or his methodology. Bohr did use some terminology associated with Kant in ways that are reminscent of how Kant and others used them. But, given the pervasive influence of Kantian ideas at the time, these modes of expression were common and their use was not limited to philosophical circles".

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