Is It Possible to Nominalize Quantum Mechanics?

Otávio Bueno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Hartry Field (1980) has developed an interesting nominalization strategy for Newtonian gravitation theory - a strategy that reformulates the theory without quantification over abstract entities. According to David Malament (1982), Field's strategy cannot be extended to quantum mechanics (QM), and so it only has a limited scope. In a recent work, Mark Balaguer has responded to Malament's challenge by indicating how QM can be nominalized, and by "doing much of the work needed to provide the nominalization" (Balaguer 1998, 114). In this paper, I critically assess Balaguer's proposal, and argue that it ultimately fails. Balaguer's strategy is incompatible with a number of interpretations of QM, in particular with Bas van Fraassen's version of the modal interpretation. And given that Balaguer's strategy invokes physically real propensities, it is unclear whether it is even compatible with nominalism. I conclude that the nominalization of QM remains a major problem for the nominalist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1424-1436
Number of pages13
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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