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Chance and Temporal Asymmetry$
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Alastair Wilson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199673421

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673421.001.0001

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Why Physics Can’t Explain Everything

Why Physics Can’t Explain Everything

(p.221) 11Why Physics Can’t Explain Everything
Chance and Temporal Asymmetry

Mathias Frisch

Oxford University Press

David Albert and Barry Loewer have recently argued that all non-fundamental laws can be derived from the fundamental laws in conjunction with the Past Hypothesis and the proposition that the probability that a given macroscopic state is realized by a given microscopic state is provided by the canonical statistical mechanical probability distribution for that macroscopic state, conditional on the Past Hypothesis. A reconstruction of the Albert and Loewer argument is provided and argued to be unsuccessful. First, the fact that a well-confirmed theory entails a probability distribution over all physically possible propositions does not entail that all probabilities assigned to those propositions are well confirmed. Second, the laws cannot be identified with all and only the propositions that are likely. Third, even if the non-fundamental laws could be derived in the way that Albert and Loewer suggest, the explanations they ground would remain irreducible in one important respect.

Keywords:   laws, probability, explanation, statistical mechanics, past hypothesis

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