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Chance and Determinism

In Eleanor Knox & Alastair Wilson (eds.), Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Physics. Routledge (2022)

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  1. Inferring Probabilities From Symmetries.Michael Strevens - 1998 - Noûs 32 (2):231-246.
    This paper justifies the inference of probabilities from symmetries. I supply some examples of important and correct inferences of this variety. Two explanations of such inferences -- an explanation based on the Principle of Indifference and a proposal due to Poincaré and Reichenbach -- are considered and rejected. I conclude with my own account, in which the inferences in question are shown to be warranted a posteriori, provided that they are based on symmetries in the mechanisms of chance setups.
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  • Do Large Probabilities Explain Better?Michael Strevens - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (3):366-390.
    It is widely held that the size of a probability makes no difference to the quality of a probabilistic explanation. I argue that explanatory practice in statistical physics belies this claim. The claim has gained currency only because of an impoverished conception of probabilistic processes and an unwarranted assumption that all probabilistic explanations have a single form.
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  • Deterministic Chance?Jonathan Schaffer - 2007 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (2):113-140.
    Can there be deterministic chance? That is, can there be objective chance values other than 0 or 1, in a deterministic world? I will argue that the answer is no. In a deterministic world, the only function that can play the role of chance is one that outputs just Os and 1s. The role of chance involves connections from chance to credence, possibility, time, intrinsicness, lawhood, and causation. These connections do not allow for deterministic chance.
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  • The Dome: An Unexpectedly Simple Failure of Determinism.John D. Norton - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (5):786-798.
    Newton’s equations of motion tell us that a mass at rest at the apex of a dome with the shape specified here can spontaneously move. It has been suggested that this indeterminism should be discounted since it draws on an incomplete rendering of Newtonian physics, or it is “unphysical,” or it employs illicit idealizations. I analyze and reject each of these reasons. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA (...)
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  • An Empirical Approach to Symmetry and Probability.Jill North - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 41 (1):27-40.
    We often use symmetries to infer outcomes’ probabilities, as when we infer that each side of a fair coin is equally likely to come up on a given toss. Why are these inferences successful? I argue against answering this with an a priori indifference principle. Reasons to reject that principle are familiar, yet instructive. They point to a new, empirical explanation for the success of our probabilistic predictions. This has implications for indifference reasoning in general. I argue that a priori (...)
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  • Three Proposals Regarding a Theory of Chance.Christopher J. G. Meacham - 2005 - Philosophical Perspectives 19 (1):281–307.
    I argue that the theory of chance proposed by David Lewis has three problems: (i) it is time asymmetric in a manner incompatible with some of the chance theories of physics, (ii) it is incompatible with statistical mechanical chances, and (iii) the content of Lewis's Principal Principle depends on how admissibility is cashed out, but there is no agreement as to what admissible evidence should be. I proposes two modifications of Lewis's theory which resolve these difficulties. I conclude by tentatively (...)
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  • What Could Be Objective About Probabilities?Tim Maudlin - 2007 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 38 (2):275-291.
  • Review of *The Metaphysics Within Physics* by Tim Maudlin. [REVIEW]Chris Daly - 2009 - Analysis 69 (2):374-375.
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  • The Metaphysics Within Physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
    A modest proposal concerning laws, counterfactuals, and explanations - - Why be Humean? -- Suggestions from physics for deep metaphysics -- On the passing of time -- Causation, counterfactuals, and the third factor -- The whole ball of wax -- Epilogue : a remark on the method of metaphysics.
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  • Two Accounts of Laws and Time.Barry Loewer - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 160 (1):115-137.
    Among the most important questions in the metaphysics of science are "What are the natures of fundamental laws and chances?" and "What grounds the direction of time?" My aim in this paper is to examine some connections between these questions, discuss two approaches to answering them and argue in favor of one. Along the way I will raise and comment on a number of issues concerning the relationship between physics and metaphysics and consequences for the subject matter and methodology of (...)
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  • Determinism and Chance.Barry Loewer - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32 (4):609-620.
    It is generally thought that objective chances for particular events different from 1 and 0 and determinism are incompatible. However, there are important scientific theories whose laws are deterministic but which also assign non-trivial probabilities to events. The most important of these is statistical mechanics whose probabilities are essential to the explanations of thermodynamic phenomena. These probabilities are often construed as 'ignorance' probabilities representing our lack of knowledge concerning the microstate. I argue that this construal is incompatible with the role (...)
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  • Grounding, Scientific Explanation, and Humean Laws.Marc Lange - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 164 (1):255-261.
    It has often been argued that Humean accounts of natural law cannot account for the role played by laws in scientific explanations. Loewer (Philosophical Studies 2012) has offered a new reply to this argument on behalf of Humean accounts—a reply that distinguishes between grounding (which Loewer portrays as underwriting a kind of metaphysical explanation) and scientific explanation. I will argue that Loewer’s reply fails because it cannot accommodate the relation between metaphysical and scientific explanation. This relation also resolves a puzzle (...)
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  • Probability in Deterministic Physics.J. T. Ismael - 2009 - Journal of Philosophy 106 (2):89-108.
    The role of probability is one of the most contested issues in the interpretation of contemporary physics. In this paper, I’ll be reevaluating some widely held assumptions about where and how probabilities arise. Larry Sklar voices the conventional wisdom about probability in classical physics in a piece in the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy, when he writes that “Statistical mechanics was the first foundational physical theory in which probabilistic concepts and probabilistic explanation played a fundamental role.” And the conventional wisdom (...)
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  • The Universe Had One Chance.Heather Demarest - 2016 - Philosophy of Science 83 (2):248-264.
    In a deterministically evolving world, the usefulness of nontrivial probabilities can seem mysterious. I use the ‘Mentaculus’ machinery developed by David Albert and Barry Loewer to show how all probabilities in such a world can be derived from a single, initial chance event. I go on to argue that this is the only genuine chance event. Perhaps surprisingly, we have good evidence of its existence and nature. I argue that the existence of this chance event justifies our epistemic reliance on (...)
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  • Deterministic Chance.Luke Glynn - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (1):51–80.
    I argue that there are non-trivial objective chances (that is, objective chances other than 0 and 1) even in deterministic worlds. The argument is straightforward. I observe that there are probabilistic special scientific laws even in deterministic worlds. These laws project non-trivial probabilities for the events that they concern. And these probabilities play the chance role and so should be regarded as chances as opposed, for example, to epistemic probabilities or credences. The supposition of non-trivial deterministic chances might seem to (...)
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  • The Best Humean System for Statistical Mechanics.Roman Frigg & Carl Hoefer - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (S3):551-574.
    Classical statistical mechanics posits probabilities for various events to occur, and these probabilities seem to be objective chances. This does not seem to sit well with the fact that the theory’s time evolution is deterministic. We argue that the tension between the two is only apparent. We present a theory of Humean objective chance and show that chances thus understood are compatible with underlying determinism and provide an interpretation of the probabilities we find in Boltzmannian statistical mechanics.
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  • Does a Low-Entropy Constraint Prevent Us From Influencing the Past.Mathias Frisch - 2007 - In Andreas Hüttemann & Gerhard Ernst (eds.), Time, Chance, and Reduction: Philosophical Aspects of Statistical Mechanics. Cambridge University Press. pp. 13--33.
    David Albert and Barry Loewer have argued that the temporal asymmetry of our concept of causal influence or control is grounded in the statistical mechanical assumption of a low-entropy past. In this paper I critically examine Albert's and Loewer 's accounts.
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  • The Metaphysical Consequences of Counterfactual Skepticism.Nina Emery - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (2):399-432.
    A series of recent arguments purport to show that most counterfactuals of the form if A had happened then C would have happened are not true. These arguments pose a challenge to those of us who think that counterfactual discourse is a useful part of ordinary conversation, of philosophical reasoning, and of scientific inquiry. Either we find a way to revise the semantics for counterfactuals in order to avoid these arguments, or we find a way to ensure that the relevant (...)
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  • Chance, Possibility, and Explanation.Nina Emery - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (1):95-120.
    I argue against the common and influential view that non-trivial chances arise only when the fundamental laws are indeterministic. The problem with this view, I claim, is not that it conflicts with some antecedently plausible metaphysics of chance or that it fails to capture our everyday use of ‘chance’ and related terms, but rather that it is unstable. Any reason for adopting the position that non-trivial chances arise only when the fundamental laws are indeterministic is also a reason for adopting (...)
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  • Chance, Possibility, and Explanation.Nina Emery - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (1):axt041.
    I argue against the common and influential view that non-trivial chances arise only when the fundamental laws are indeterministic. The problem with this view, I claim, is not that it conflicts with some antecedently plausible metaphysics of chance or that it fails to capture our everyday use of ‘chance’ and related terms, but rather that it is unstable. Any reason for adopting the position that non-trivial chances arise only when the fundamental laws are indeterministic is also a reason for adopting (...)
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  • Statistical Mechanics and the Asymmetry of Counterfactual Dependence.Adam Elga - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 68 (3):313-324.
    In "Counterfactual Dependence and Time's Arrow", David Lewis defends an analysis of counterfactuals intended to yield the asymmetry of counterfactual dependence: that later affairs depend counterfactually on earlier ones, and not the other way around. I argue that careful attention to the dynamical properties of thermodynamically irreversible processes shows that in many ordinary cases, Lewis's analysis fails to yield this asymmetry. Furthermore, the analysis fails in an instructive way: it teaches us something about the connection between the asymmetry of overdetermination (...)
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  • A Better Best System Account of Lawhood.Jonathan Cohen & Craig Callender - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 145 (1):1 - 34.
    Perhaps the most significant contemporary theory of lawhood is the Best System (/MRL) view on which laws are true generalizations that best systematize knowledge. Our question in this paper will be how best to formulate a theory of this kind. We’ll argue that an acceptable MRL should (i) avoid inter-system comparisons of simplicity, strength, and balance, (ii) make lawhood epistemically accessible, and (iii) allow for laws in the special sciences. Attention to these problems will bring into focus a useful menu (...)
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  • Time and Chance.David Z. Albert - 2000 - Harvard University Press.
    This book is an attempt to get to the bottom of an acute and perennial tension between our best scientific pictures of the fundamental physical structure of the ...
  • Quantum Mechanics and Experience.David Z. Albert - 1992 - Harvard Up.
    Presents a guide to the basics of quantum mechanics and measurement.
  • Physics and Chance: Philosophical Issues in the Foundations of Statistical Mechanics.Lawrence Sklar - 1993 - Cambridge University Press.
    Statistical mechanics is one of the crucial fundamental theories of physics, and in his new book Lawrence Sklar, one of the pre-eminent philosophers of physics, offers a comprehensive, non-technical introduction to that theory and to attempts to understand its foundational elements. Among the topics treated in detail are: probability and statistical explanation, the basic issues in both equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, the role of cosmology, the reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics, and the alleged foundation of the very notion (...)
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  • Tychomancy: Inferring Probability From Causal Structure.Michael Strevens - 2013 - Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    Maxwell's deduction of the probability distribution over the velocity of gas molecules—one of the most important passages in physics (Truesdell)—presents a riddle: a physical discovery of the first importance was made in a single inferential leap without any apparent recourse to empirical evidence. -/- Tychomancy proposes that Maxwell's derivation was not made a priori; rather, he inferred his distribution from non-probabilistic facts about the dynamics of intermolecular collisions. Further, the inference is of the same sort as everyday reasoning about the (...)
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  • Chance and Context.Toby Handfield & Alastair Wilson - 2014 - In Alastair Wilson (ed.), Chance and Temporal Asymmetry. Oxford University Press.
    The most familiar philosophical conception of objective chance renders determinism incompatible with non-trivial chances. This conception – associated in particular with the work of David Lewis – is not a good fit with our use of the word ‘chance’ and its cognates in ordinary discourse. In this paper we show how a generalized framework for chance can reconcile determinism with non-trivial chances, and provide for a more charitable interpretation of ordinary chance-talk. According to our proposal, variation in an admissible ‘evidence (...)
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  • A Primer on Determinism.John Earman - 1986 - D. Reidel.
    Determinism is a perennial topic of philosophical discussion. Very little acquaintance with the philosophical literature is needed to reveal the Tower of ...
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  • Quantum Theory and the Schism in Physics: From the Postscript to The Logic of Scientific Discovery.Karl Raimund Popper - 1982 - Routledge.
    The basic theme of Popper's philosophy--that something can come from nothing--is related to the present situation in physical theory. Popper carries his investigation right to the center of current debate in quantum physics. He proposes an interpretation of physics--and indeed an entire cosmology--which is realist, conjectural, deductivist and objectivist, anti-positivist, and anti-instrumentalist. He stresses understanding, reminding us that our ignorance grows faster than our conjectural knowledge.
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