Process and Change: From a Thermodynamic Perspective

The creators of equilibrium and irreversible thermodynamics developed a conception of processes which bears on metaphysical discussions of change, occurrents, and continuants and merits the attention of contemporary analytic metaphysicians. It concerns the macroscopic domain, from which metaphysicians normally take their examples, and is unjustly ignored on the grounds that it is not ‘fundamental science’. Why this often-voiced view should disqualify just thermodynamics, and not the broad range of considerations normally raised, is a moot point. But even if there were an adequate reductive argument, that wouldn’t eliminate the ontological claims. It is argued that processes cannot be defined as changes in the state of enduring objects, but should be considered autonomous entities. The relational character of processes involving several continuants is developed, alongside their mereological features and their relation to space and time. Some aspects of the historical development of the notions of reversible and irreversible processes in thermodynamics are taken up in the course of the discussion, but the paper is not concerned with the mathematical foundations of equilibrium and irreversible thermodynamics. 1 Introduction2 Change3 Distinguishing Processes from States4 Causings5 The Relational Character and Mereological Structure of Processes6 Concluding Comments
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axs016
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P. Needham (2010). Substance and Time. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (3):485-512.

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