Scientific Realism and the Quantum

Scientific Realism and the Quantum


Scientific Realism and the Quantum studies scientific (anti-)realism in the context of quantum physics.

Does science provide knowledge of the ‘unobservable’ world of molecules, atoms, or electromagnetic fields? How about quarks or the Higgs boson? These posits of science cannot be ‘seen’ by the naked eye, or directly observed through instruments, but surely our best confirmed scientific theories give us knowledge of about them? This question of scientific realism is one of the core issues in the philosophy of science.

Quantum physics is extremely well-confirmed. Its impressive predictive and explanatory successes exemplify some of the basic motivations behind the realist attitude. But at the same time profound interpretational issues in the foundations of quantum physics present distinct challenges to realism.

This AHRC-funded project examines scientific realism in relation to quantum physics, its history and current state of play.

We bring together researchers from general philosophy of science and philosophy of physics for fruitful interaction.

The project’s significance derives from the cultural importance of the claims to scientific knowledge that are at stake. As science commands authority as a source of empirical knowledge, it is critical for us to understand how philosophical issues in fundamental physics challenge an otherwise natural attitude towards our best theories.


If you would like to contact the investigators about Realism and the Quantum project, or if you have comments about this website, we’d be happy to hear from you. Please email

You can also subscribe to our Twitter feed @realism_quantum


Scientific Realism and the Quantum: Final Conference

12th September 2017 – 13th September 2017

Workshop for Science Communicators: Modern Physics

12th September 2017, 10.00am – 2.00pm

Philosophy of Science Reading Group

13th June 2017, 11.00am – 12.00pm

Philosophy of Physics Reading Group

30th May 2017, 11.00am – 12.00pm

Workshop:  Models, Explanations, and Realism about Quantum Physics

17th January 2017, 9.30am – 6.00pm

Philosophy of Science Reading Group

6th December 2016, 11.00am – 12.00pm

This week we are reading Fiction, Depiction, and the Complementarity Thesis in Art and Science by Elay Shech.

Philosophy of Physics Reading Group

22nd November 2016, 11.00am – 12.00pm

This week we are reading Quantum Humeanism; or Physicalism without Properties by M. Esfeld.

Philosophy of Science Reading Group

15th November 2016, 11.00am – 12.00pm

This week we are reading Computer simulations and experiments: the case of the Higgs boson by Michela Massimi and Wahid Bhimji.


Publications and outputs


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