Modal interpretations of quantum mechanics and relativity: A reconsideration

Joseph Berkovitz, Meir Hemmo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two of the main interpretative problems in quantum mechanics are the so-called measurement problem and the question of the compatibility of quantum mechanics with relativity theory. Modal interpretations of quantum mechanics were designed to solve both of these problems. They are no-collapse (typically) indeterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics that supplement the orthodox state description of physical systems by a set of possessed properties that is supposed to be rich enough to account for the classical-like behavior of macroscopic systems, but sufficiently restricted so as to avoid the no-hidden-variables theorems. But, as recent no-go theorems suggest, current modal interpretations are incompatible with relativity. In this paper, we suggest a strategy for circumventing these theorems. We then show how this strategy could naturally be integrated in a relational version of the modal interpretation, where quantum-mechanical states assign relational rather than intrinsic properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-397
Number of pages25
JournalFoundations of Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
During our Ph.D. studies at Cambridge and in the years to follow, we frequently met with Jim Cushing, attended his presentations and discussed with him the philosophy of quantum mechanics. Jim’s intellectual curiosity and honesty, his enthusiasm and commitment to clarifying the foundations of quantum mechanics, his wealth of knowledge, and his gentle and generous nature gave us a source of inspiration. We would like to thank the editors, Michael Dickson, Sebastiano Sonego and Antony Valentini for the invitation to contribute to this volume. For discussions and comments on earlier versions of this paper, we are grateful to Guido Bacciagaluppi, Jeremy Butterfield, Richard Healey, Michael Redhead, Rafael Sorkin, Rob Spekkens and especially Wayne Myrvold, Itamar Pitowsky and Antony Valentini. We are also grateful to audiences at the Philosophy of Physics Discussion Group, Sub-faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University; Foundations of Science Colloquium, Utrecht University; the Philosophy Department, Freiburg University; the Committee for Philosophy and the Sciences, University of Maryland College Park; and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Waterloo, Canada. For financial support, JB would like to thank the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and the Philosophy, Probability and Modelling Group, Center for Junior Researchers, Konstanz University. JB would also like to thank the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Sciences, London School of Economics, and the Philosophy, Probability and Modelling Group for providing him with stimulating environments during the development of this paper.


  • Modal interpretations
  • Relational modal interpretation
  • Relational properties
  • Relativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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