Descartes Centre Colloquium with Elise Crull (City College of New York)

Professor Elise Crull

Grete Hermann: Pioneering Philosopher of Physics

In the 1930s – a time when monumental figures like Einstein, Schrödinger, Bohr and Heisenberg grappled intensely with the question of how to interpret quantum mechanics – a young doctoral student of Emmy Noether's named Grete Hermann became interested in defending Kant's notion of causality in the face of this new and apparently indeterministic theory.  In 1933 Hermann composed a manuscript on determinism in quantum mechanics which she sent to Dirac and also to Copenhagen, where it was read with interest by Bohr, Heisenberg and von Weizsäcker. Based on the promise shown in this essay, Hermann was invited to attend Heisenberg’s colloquia in Leipzig in the winter term 1934-1935 – an offer she accepted.  Her visit culminated in a lengthy essay published in early spring of 1935 concerning the natural­-philosophical foundations of quantum mechanics.  

Hermann’s 1935 essay is becoming increasingly recognized as one of the first and finest philosophical treatments of quantum mechanics.  Although Hermann’s aim was to demonstrate consilience between the principle of causality and quantum theory, she far exceeds this goal: she in fact outlines the contours of a novel neo-Kantian interpretation of quantum mechanics.  Due to its author’s rigorous dual training in mathematics and natural philosophy, this interpretation does particular justice to the intricacies of the theory and offers a view unlike others forming the canon of early interpretations.  After publication of her 1935 essay, Hermann continued to develop this unique neo-Kantian approach for the purpose of reconceptualizing not only science, but all domains of human inquiry. 

In this talk I will introduce Hermann’s fascinating philosophy of science, starting from its birth in the context of quantum mechanics and tracing its development in essays, talks and correspondence into the late 1940s. 

About the speaker:

Start date and time
End date and time
Sweelinckzaal (0.05) at Drift 21 (entrance via library)
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Free entrance

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