The Past Hypothesis and the Nature of Physical Laws

In Barry Loewer, Brad Weslake & Eric B. Winsberg (eds.), The Probability Map of the Universe: Essays on David Albert’s _time and Chance_. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 204-248 (2023)
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Abstract

If the Past Hypothesis underlies the arrows of time, what is the status of the Past Hypothesis? In this paper, I examine the role of the Past Hypothesis in the Boltzmannian account and defend the view that the Past Hypothesis is a candidate fundamental law of nature. Such a view is known to be compatible with Humeanism about laws, but as I argue it is also supported by a minimal non-Humean "governing'' view. Some worries arise from the non-dynamical and time-dependent character of the Past Hypothesis as a boundary condition, the intrinsic vagueness in its specification, and the nature of the initial probability distribution. I show that these worries do not have much force, and in any case they become less relevant in a new quantum framework for analyzing time's arrows---the Wentaculus. Hence, the view that the Past Hypothesis is a candidate fundamental law should be more widely accepted than it is now.

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Eddy Keming Chen
University of California, San Diego

References found in this work

The metaphysics within physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
New work for a theory of universals.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
The direction of time.Hans Reichenbach - 1956 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Maria Reichenbach.
Time and chance.David Z. Albert - 2000 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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