Hostname: page-component-6b989bf9dc-476zt Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-15T04:04:26.941Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Position Measurements and the Empirical Status of Particles in Bohmian Mechanics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


The article addresses the debate about the empirical status of particles versus wave functions in Bohmian quantum mechanics. It thereby clarifies questions and misconceptions about the role of the particles in the measurement process, the (un)reliability of position measurements (surrealistic trajectories), and the limited empirical access to particle positions (absolute uncertainty). Taking the ontological commitment of Bohmian mechanics seriously, all relevant empirical results follow from an analysis of the theory in terms of particle motions. Finally, we address the question of why particle motions rather than patterns in the wave function would be the supervenience base of conscious experience.

Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


I am grateful to Andrea Oldofredi for helpful comments and to Shan Gao for an inspiring discussion. I gratefully acknowledge funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation Doc.Mobility Fellowship P1LAP1_184150.


Aharonov, Y., and Vaidman, L. 1993. “Measurement of the Schrödinger Wave of a Single Particle.” Physics Letters A 178 (1): 3842..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aharonov, Y., and Vaidman, L. 1996. “About Position Measurements Which Do Not Show the Bohmian Particle Position.” In Bohmian Mechanics and Quantum Theory: An Appraisal, ed. Cushing, J. T., Fine, A., and Goldstein, S., 141–54. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
Allori, V., Goldstein, S., Tumulka, R., and Zanghì, N. 2014. “Predictions and Primitive Ontology in Quantum Foundations: A Study of Examples. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (2): 323–52..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bedard, K. 1999. “Material Objects in Bohm’s Interpretation.” Philosophy of Science 66 (2): 221–42..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bell, J. S. 2004. Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bohm, D. 1952. “A Suggested Interpretation of the Quantum Theory in Terms of ‘Hidden’ Variables.” Pt. 2. Physical Review 85 (2): 180–93..Google Scholar
Brown, H., and Wallace, D. 2005. “Solving the Measurement Problem: De Broglie–Bohm Loses Out to Everett.” Foundations of Physics 35 (4): 517–40..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chalmers, D. J. 1995. “Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia.” In Conscious Experience, ed. Metzinger, T., 309–28. Paderborn: Schöningh.Google ScholarPubMed
Deutsch, D. 1996. “Comment on Lockwood.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (2): 222–28..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dürr, D., Goldstein, S., and Zanghì, N. 2004. “Quantum Equilibrium and the Role of Operators as Observables in Quantum Theory.” Journal of Statistical Physics 116 (1): 9591055.. Repr. in Dürr et al. 2013, chap. 3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dürr, D., Goldstein, S., and Zanghì, N. 2013. Quantum Physics without Quantum Philosophy. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Englert, B.-G., Scully, M. O., Süssmann, G., and Walther, H. 2014. “Surrealistic Bohm Trajectories.” Zeitschrift für Naturforschung A 47 (12): 1175–86..Google Scholar
Esfeld, M., Lazarovici, D., Hubert, M., and Dürr, D. 2014. “The Ontology of Bohmian Mechanics.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (4): 773–96..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gao, S. 2019a. “A Contradiction in Bohm’s Theory.” PhilSci Archive, University of Pittsburgh. Scholar
Gao, S. 2019b. “The Measurement Problem Revisited.” Synthese 196 (1): 299311..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gisin, N. 2018. “Why Bohmian Mechanics? One- and Two-Time Position Measurements, Bell Inequalities, Philosophy, and Physics.” Entropy 20 (2): 105.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Heisenberg, W. 2012. Der Teil und das Ganze: Gespräche im Umkreis der Atomphysik. 9th ed. Munich: Piper.Google Scholar
Lazarovici, D., Oldofredi, A., and Esfeld, M. 2018. “Observables and Unobservables in Quantum Mechanics: How the No-Hidden-Variables Theorems Support the Bohmian Particle Ontology.” Entropy 20 (5): 381.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lewis, P. J. 2007. “How Bohm’s Theory Solves the Measurement Problem.” Philosophy of Science 74 (5): 749–60..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Loewer, B. M. 2003. “Consciousness and Quantum Theory: Strange Bedfellows.” In Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives, ed. Smith, Q. and Jokic, A. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Maudlin, T. 1995a. “Three Measurement Problems.” Topoi 14 (1): 715..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Maudlin, T. 1995b. “Why Bohm’s Theory Solves the Measurement Problem.” Philosophy of Science 62 (3): 479–83..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Maudlin, T. 1997. “Descrying the World in the Wave Function.” Monist 80 (1): 323..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Maudlin, T. 2010. “Can the World Be Only Wave-Function?” In Many Worlds? Everett, Quantum Theory, and Reality, ed. Saunders, S., Barrett, J., Kent, A., and Wallace, D., 121–43. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Monton, B. 2006. “Quantum Mechanics and 3N-Dimensional Space.” Philosophy of Science 73 (5): 778–89..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Naaman-Marom, G., Erez, N., and Vaidman, L. 2012. “Position Measurements in the de Broglie–Bohm Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.” Annals of Physics 327 (10): 2522–42..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oldofredi, A. 2019. “Some Remarks on the Mentalistic Reformulation of the Measurement Problem: A Reply to S. Gao.” Synthese. Scholar
Sellars, W. 1962. “Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man.” In Frontiers of Science and Philosophy, ed. Colodny, R., 3578. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
Stone, A. D. 1994. “Does the Bohm Theory Solve the Measurement Problem?Philosophy of Science 61 (2): 250–66..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tastevin, G., and Laloë, F. 2018. “Surrealistic Bohmian Trajectories Do Not Occur with Macroscopic Pointers.” European Physical Journal D 72 (10): 183.Google Scholar
Valentini, A. 2010. “De Broglie–Bohm Pilot-Wave Theory: Many Worlds in Denial? In Many Worlds? Everett, Quantum Theory, and Reality, ed. Saunders, S., Barrett, J., Kent, A., and Wallace, D., 121–43. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Wallace, D. 2012. The Emergent Multiverse: Quantum Theory According to the Everett Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wallace, D., and Timpson, C. G. 2010. “Quantum Mechanics on Spacetime,” pt. 1, “Spacetime State Realism.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (4): 697727..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zeh, H. D. 1999. “Why Bohm’s Quantum Theory?Foundations of Physics Letters 12 (2): 197200..CrossRefGoogle Scholar