Causal explanations in classical and statistical thermodynamics

Philosophy of Science 48 (1):65-77 (1981)
This paper considers the problem of causal explanation in classical and statistical thermodynamics. It is argued that the irreversibility of macroscopic processes is explained in both formulations of thermodynamics in a teleological way that appeals to entropic or probabilistic consequences rather than to efficient-causal, antecedental conditions. This explanatory structure of thermodynamics is not taken to imply a teleological orientation to macroscopic processes themselves, but to reflect simply the epistemological limitations of this science, wherein consequences of heat-work asymmetries are either macroscopically measurable (entropy) or calculable (probabilities), while efficient-causal relationships are obscure or indeterminable
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DOI 10.1086/288977
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Jonathan Birch (2012). Robust Processes and Teleological Language. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3 (3):299-312.

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