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Bohm, Physicist Philosopher: The Battle to find a Satisfactory Quantum Ontology

Basil J. Hiley Related
Physics 26/10/2017

I was a colleague and collaborator of David Bohm for over thirty years at Birkbeck College. In this talk I will try to convey the spirit in which he worked as he struggled to develop a comprehensive ontology for quantum phenomena that would be rich enough to include general relativity. More ambitiously, he wanted to provide a conceptual structure that would be general enough to begin to answer some of the deep physical and philosophical questions that arise in the mind-matter relationship. In this talk I will concentrate more on the physics as this is the area in which we collaborated most. In particular I want to concentrate on his earlier 1952 papers which David saw in a very different light from the more recent discussions under the heading “Bohmian mechanics”. I want to make it clear that he totally rejected any mechanical ontology for quantum phenomena. For Bohm, ‘wholeness’ in the sense of Bohr and Whitehead, was a key, essential element of any satisfactory ontology. I will also discuss how the more recent developments in the experimental domain involving weak measurements, carried out in Toronto and being extended here in University College, London, are providing a fitting legacy to his pioneering work in this field.