Thermodynamic asymmetry in time

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006)

Abstract

Thermodynamics is the science that describes much of the time asymmetric behavior found in the world. This entry's first task, consequently, is to show how thermodynamics treats temporally ‘directed’ behavior. It then concentrates on the following two questions. (1) What is the origin of the thermodynamic asymmetry in time? In a world possibly governed by time symmetric laws, how should we understand the time asymmetric laws of thermodynamics? (2) Does the thermodynamic time asymmetry explain the other temporal asymmetries? Does it account, for instance, for the fact that we know more about the past than the future? The discussion thus divides between thermodynamics being an explanandum or explanans. In the former case the answer will be found in philosophy of physics; in the latter case it will be found in metaphysics, epistemology, and other fields, though in each case there will be blurring between the disciplines.

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Citations of this work

The Ontic Account of Scientific Explanation.Carl F. Craver - 2014 - In Marie I. Kaiser, Oliver R. Scholz, Daniel Plenge & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Explanation in the Special Sciences: The Case of Biology and History. Springer Verlag. pp. 27-52.
Quantum Mechanics in a Time-Asymmetric Universe: On the Nature of the Initial Quantum State.Eddy Keming Chen - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (4):1155–1183.
The “Past Hypothesis”: Not Even False.John Earman - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 37 (3):399-430.

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