What, if any, are the major philosophical consequences of the uncertainty principle?

Wikipedia describes the principle this way:

[T]he principle implies that it is impossible to simultaneously both measure the present position while "determining" the future momentum of an electron or any other particle with an arbitrary degree of accuracy and certainty.

Are there analyses in the literature? Which philosophers of science undertake a serious consideration of the principle's implications?

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    Questions about how Judiasm and Christianity understand this principle have been posted to their respective communities.
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 3, 2011 at 15:32
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    Searle's third law: "Anything philosophers say about quantum mechanics is BS and quantum physicists aren't much better."
    – MmmHmm
    Commented May 27, 2018 at 15:25

3 Answers 3


Le nouvel esprit Scientifique of Bachelard discusses this.

  • Does it have an English translation?
    – Ooker
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 13:13
  • Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaston_Bachelard points this one: The New Scientific Spirit. Beacon Press, Boston, 1985. Translation by A. Goldhammer. Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 16:39

I think this principle is highly abused. Its often used out of context. Especially in terms of our ability to measure things. But it really isn't saying anything about that, it's more a reflection of the fundamental nature of particles. Which must be understood in the context of quantum physics. So much evil is done in the name of quantum physics, by slicing out one aspect and relating it to the world of objects that we perceive as humans.

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    I think the lesson is that purely technical results in science and mathematics can have their oversimplified executive summary exploited as inspiration for philosophical thought that, however useful, may not remain very faithful to the original technical result. So as long as such 'inspired' philosophy does not try to affect the original technical work, it should be judged on its own and not as inaccurate. Of course if the philosophy -does- try to comment on the original, it had better be technically correct.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 2:36
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    can you cite a source claiming this principle is "highly abused" -- or even better, find some philosopher of science actually abusing the principle?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 20:29
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    @Joe, I prefixed it with "I think" based on my conversations with people, and having seen such appalling things like "What the bleep do we know?" and "Deepak Chopra" and various others, and having people use those sources as a basis of serious discussion..... all taking sound bites out of context Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 22:15
  • understood. Was just wondering if you had encountered examples of blatant abuse in the technical philosophical literature, a la Sokal, or whether you were reacting to general misinformation on the subject.
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 22:18
  • I wish I could up-vote this answer twice: quantum physics and the uncertainty principle are widely abused in philosophy!
    – Ben
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 6:48

This is what I come up myself, which in my opinion it is heavily influenced by Buddhism philosophy and koans:

When choosing books I usually imagine the book is a painting, yet I forget to bring my eyeglass. If every time I close my eyes and reopen them I see a new painting, yet I still don't feel vague with it, then that book is worth reading.

This is an example of the uncertainty principle in signal processing:

Not that the principle is not necessary a quantum phenomenon, and has been used as a main metaphor/analogy between Buddhism and science.


Related answer in Buddhism: If the self is scientifically measured, what is the Buddhist view on this?

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