Workshop 2021: Alyssa Ney, “The World in the Wave Function”

University of Geneva, June 14-15, 2021

Over the last two decades, wavefunction realism has emerged as one of the most prominent contenders for the ontology of non-relativistic quantum mechanics. But formidable challenges remain: how does wavefunction realism account for the low-dimensional world of macroscopic experience in fundamental terms? Does wavefunction realism fare better in this regard than its competitors? Can wavefunction realism be transposed to the relativistic setting?

In her new book The World in the Wave Function: A Metaphysics for Quantum Physics (OUP 2021), Alyssa Ney provides a novel, comprehensive and systematic defense of wavefunction realism. The goal of this online workshop is to bring together philosophers of physics and metaphysicians to discuss this exciting new contribution to the metaphysics of quantum theory.

Invited Speakers: Alyssa Ney (UC Davis), Peter Lewis (Dartmouth), Wayne Myrvold (Western), Jill North (Rutgers), Davide Romano (Lisbon).

Schedule: (all times CEST)

1st session: Monday, June 14, 2021
6.00-6.30pm Alyssa Ney
6:30-7:30pmJill north
7:40-8:40pmPeter Lewis
2nd session: Tuesday, June 15, 2021
6:00-7:00pmWayne Myrvold
7:00-8:00pmDavide Romano
8:10-8:40pmAlyssa Ney: replies


Jill North: “Finding Particles in the Wavefunction:  comments on Ney, The World in the Wave Function
Many people take what Ney calls the “macro-object problem”—the problem of finding the world of our everyday experience, including a world of macroscopic objects, in the wavefunction—to be the core difficulty facing wavefunction realism, and they reject the view on the grounds that it cannot solve this problem.  In the final chapters of her book, Ney proposes a multi-layered solution to this problem.  I examine one part of her solution:  how to find ordinary three-dimensional particles in a world that fundamentally consists of a wavefunction evolving in an extremely high-dimensional space.  As someone who leans in favor of wavefunction realism, I am attracted to Ney’s account.  However, I do not yet see exactly how this part of it is supposed to work; so my comments will ultimately amount to a request for more information.

Peter Lewis: “Wavefunction realism as reverse explication
We can distinguish wave function realism in a broad sense—that the wave function describes the world—from wave function realism in Ney’s (2021) narrow sense—that the fundamental ontology is a field in a high-dimensional space. Wave function realism in the broad sense is (all but) inevitable. But what kind of ontology does the wave function describe? Here we face something like a Carnapian explication project, but in reverse. Carnap asks how we should understand everyday terms like “fish” and “probability” in light of science. Here we want to know (roughly) how we should understand a scientific representation in light of everyday experience. I defend a low-dimensional ontology on this basis.

Wayne Myrvold: “WTF is WFR?”
Discussions of “wave function realism” have often proceeded as if the term denotes a single view. There are, however, a number of questions that need to be answered before even a single view has been specified, and, as these might be answered in different ways, there are many different views that could fall under the rubric of wave function realism. In this talk I will present a number of such questions, with an aim of getting a discussion going about what, exactly, is being advocated.

Davide Romano: “On the emergence of three-dimensional space from configuration space realism”
One of the challenges of wave function realism in quantum mechanics, maybe the challenge, is to explain the appearance of a three-dimensional world from the fundamental configuration space. In the new book: The World in the Wave Function: A Metaphysics for Quantum Physics (OUP, 2021), Alyssa Ney accepts this challenge and dedicates the last chapters of the book to the solution of this problem. She develops a novel strategy based on several steps: from the role of decoherence to that of symmetries, from the (mereological) composition of microscopic objects to the (partial) instantiation of properties of particle configurations. The talk will present the main steps of Alyssa Ney’s strategy, stressing the philosophical notions involved and advancing possible objections.

Registration: The workshop will be held online. Please register at; you will receive further details, including the zoom link, shortly before the start of the workshop.

Organizers: Claudio Calosi, David Schroeren, Maria Nørgaard, Ryan Miller, members of the SNF funded project “The Metaphysics of Quantum Objects” (SNF grant no. 181088, PI Claudio Calosi), Department of Philosophy, University of Geneva, Switzerland.

Contact: Please direct any queries to