After introducing the empiricist point of view in philosophy of science, and the concepts and methods of the semantic approach to scientific theories, van Fraassen discusses quantum theory in three stages. He first examines the question of whether and how empirical phenomena require a non-classical theory, and what sort of theory they require. He then discusses the mathematical foundations of quantum theory with special reference to developments in the modelling of interaction, composite systems, and measurement. Finally, the author broaches the main questions of interpretation. After offering a critique of earlier interpretations, he develops a new one--the modal interpretation--which attempts to stay close to the original Copenhagen ideas without implying a radical incompleteness in quantum theory. He again gives special attention to the character of composite, many-body systems and especially to the peculiar character of assemblies of identical particles in quantum statistics.
`Van Fraassen's book will certainly stimulate discussion and debate on many matters. Moreover, his presentation of many of the formal results, his statement of the problems, and his clarification of the structure of the arguments will be of enduring benefit to those readers who will participate in those debates. His clear and very accessible accounts of many results, ... will serve as paradigms of how to present formal technical results and explain their
non-technical implications without sacrificing either accuracy or depth. ... It is an excellent place for us all to learn about the structure of non-relativistic quantum theory and the formidable problems
faced by anyone trying to provide an interpretation for this most perplexing of 20th-century physical theories.'
International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol 7, No 3 1993
`...must surely be the most sophisticated attempt yet made by a practising philosopher to make sense of the subject, and to propose a metaphysics of science that will reconcile the demands of theory with those of common sense.'
Roger Scruton, Times Literary Supplement
`Despite the difficulty of the terrain, van Fraassen makes it all look easy. With a bow of deference to other philosophers who have produced books on this subject, I must confess to finding Quantum Machanics the best I have read yet. I can see myself wandering through its pages again and again'
Robert Clifton, Times Higher Education Supplement
`Van Fraassen has written a challenging book, full of important insights, confronting lazy orthodoxies with finer distinctions than they are used to, and giving the reader food for thought at every turn. The best aspect of van Fraassen's work is that he engages in the intellectual pursuit with real determination, working out the dtails of his individualistic view with subtlety and skill. And, it is important to remind ourselves, he may yet be right ... this
is a challenging and provocative book. It is indeed a tour de force.'
`van Fraassen provides fresh and readable informal sketches of forbiddingly technical material ... Many will find van Fraassen's view attractive, and all readers will profit from learning about the points in which their thinking differs from his. I strongly recommend the book to anyone who aims at a thorough background in this bewildering subject.'
Paul Teller, University of California, Davis, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 104, No. 3 (July 1995)