This paper addresses the question of how we should regard the probability distributions introduced into statistical mechanics. It will be argued that it is problematic to take them either as purely ontic, or purely epistemic. I will propose a third alternative: they are almost objective probabilities, or epistemic chances. The definition of such probabilities involves an interweaving of epistemic and physical considerations, and thus they cannot be classified as either purely epistemic or purely ontic. This conception, it will be argued, (...) resolves some of the puzzles associated with statistical mechanical probabilities: it explains how probabilistic posits introduced on the basis of incomplete knowledge can yield testable predictions, and it also bypasses the problem of disastrous retrodictions, that is, the fact the standard equilibrium measures yield high probability of the system being in equilibrium in the recent past, even when we know otherwise. As the problem does not arise on the conception of probabilities considered here, there is no need to invoke a Past Hypothesis as a special posit to avoid it. (shrink)
This chapter will review selected aspects of the terrain of discussions about probabilities in statistical mechanics (with no pretensions to exhaustiveness, though the major issues will be touched upon), and will argue for a number of claims. None of the claims to be defended is entirely original, but all deserve emphasis. The first, and least controversial, is that probabilistic notions are needed to make sense of statistical mechanics. The reason for this is the same reason that convinced Maxwell, Gibbs, and (...) Boltzmann that probabilities would be needed, namely, that the second law of thermodynamics, which in its original formulation says that certain processes are impossible, must, on the kinetic theory, be replaced by a weaker formulation according to which what the original version deems impossible is merely improbable. Second is that we ought not take the standard measures invoked in equilibrium statistical mechanics as giving, in any sense, the correct probabilities about microstates of the system. We can settle for a much weaker claim: that the probabilities for outcomes of experiments yielded by the standard distributions are effectively the same as those yielded by any distribution that we should take as a representing probabilities over microstates. Lastly, (and most controversially): in asking about the status of probabilities in statistical mechanics, the familiar dichotomy between epistemic probabilities (credences, or degrees of belief) and ontic (physical) probabilities is insufficient; the concept of probability that is best suited to the needs of statistical mechanics is one that combines epistemic and physical considerations. (shrink)
In this paper, a concept of chance is introduced that is compatible with deterministic physical laws, yet does justice to our use of chance-talk in connection with typical games of chance. We take our cue from what Poincaré called "the method of arbitrary functions," and elaborate upon a suggestion made by Savage in connection with this. Comparison is made between this notion of chance, and David Lewis' conception.
In addition to purely practical values, cognitive values also figure into scientific deliberations. One way of introducing cognitive values is to consider the cognitive value that accrues to the act of accepting a hypothesis. Although such values may have a role to play, such a role does not exhaust the significance of cognitive values in scientific decision-making. This paper makes a plea for consideration of epistemic value—that is, value attaching to a state of belief—and defends the notion of cognitive epistemic (...) value against some criticisms that have been raised. A stability requirement for epistemic value functions is argued for on the basis of considerations of diachronic coherence. This stability requirement is sufficient to obtain the Value of Learning Theorem, which says that the expected utility of cost-free learning cannot be negative. This holds also for cognitive epistemic values, provided that the stability requirement is met. (shrink)
This article examines the implications of the holonomy interpretation of classical electromagnetism. As has been argued by Richard Healey and Gordon Belot, classical electromagnetism on this interpretation evinces a form of nonseparability, something that otherwise might have been thought of as confined to nonclassical physics. Consideration of the differences between this classical nonseparability and quantum nonseparability shows that the nonseparability exhibited by the classical electromagnetism on the holonomy interpretation is closer to separability than might at first appear.
One finds, in Maxwell's writings on thermodynamics and statistical physics, a conception of the nature of these subjects that differs in interesting ways from the way that they are usually conceived. In particular, though—in agreement with the currently accepted view—Maxwell maintains that the second law of thermodynamics, as originally conceived, cannot be strictly true, the replacement he proposes is different from the version accepted by most physicists today. The modification of the second law accepted by most physicists is a probabilistic (...) one: although statistical fluctuations will result in occasional spontaneous differences in temperature or pressure, there is no way to predictably and reliably harness these to produce large violations of the original version of the second law. Maxwell advocates a version of the second law that is strictly weaker; the validity of even this probabilistic version is of limited scope, limited to situations in which we are dealing with large numbers of molecules en masse and have no ability to manipulate individual molecules. Connected with this is his concept of the thermodynamic concepts of heat, work, and entropy; on the Maxwellian view, these are concepts that must be relativized to the means we have available for gathering information about and manipulating physical systems. The Maxwellian view is one that deserves serious consideration in discussions of the foundation of statistical mechanics. It has relevance for the project of recovering thermodynamics from statistical mechanics because, in such a project, it matters which version of the second law we are trying to recover. (shrink)
Much of the evidence for quantum mechanics is statistical in nature. The Everett interpretation, if it is to be a candidate for serious consideration, must be capable of doing justice to reasoning on which statistical evidence in which observed relative frequencies that closely match calculated probabilities counts as evidence in favour of a theory from which the probabilities are calculated. Since, on the Everett interpretation, all outcomes with nonzero amplitude are actualized on diﬀerent branches, it is not obvious that sense (...) can be made of ascribing probabilities to outcomes of experiments, and this poses a prima facie problem for statistical inference. It is incumbent on the Everettian either to make sense of ascribing probabilities to outcomes of experiments in the Everett interpretation, or to ﬁnd a substitute on which the usual statistical analysis of experimental results continues to count as evidence for quantum mechanics, and, since it is the very evidence for quantum mechanics that is at stake, this must be done in a way that does not presuppose the correctness of Everettian quantum mechanics. This requires an account of theory conﬁrmation that applies to branching-universe theories but does not presuppose the correctness of any such theory. In this paper, we supply and defend such an account. The account has the consequence that statistical evidence can conﬁrm a branching-universe theory such as Everettian quantum mechanics in the same way in which it can conﬁrm a probabilistic theory. (shrink)
Quantum information theory has given rise to a renewed interest in, and a new perspective on, the old issue of understanding the ways in which quantum mechanics differs from classical mechanics. The task of distinguishing between quantum and classical theory is facilitated by neutral frameworks that embrace both classical and quantum theory. In this paper, I discuss two approaches to this endeavour, the algebraic approach, and the convex set approach, with an eye to the strengths of each, and the relations (...) between the two. I end with a discussion of one particular model, the toy theory devised by Rob Spekkens, which, with minor modifications, fits neatly within the convex sets framework, and which displays in an elegant manner some of the similarities and differences between classical and quantum theories. The conclusion suggested by this investigation is that Schrödinger was right to find the essential difference between classical and quantum theory in their handling of composite systems, though Schrödinger's contention that it is entanglement that is the distinctive feature of quantum mechanics needs to be modified. (shrink)
Earman and Ruetsche () have cast their gaze upon existing no-go theorems for relativistic modal interpretations, and have found them inconclusive. They suggest that it would be more fruitful to investigate modal interpretations proposed for "really relativistic theories," that is, algebraic relativistic quantum field theories. They investigate the proposal of Clifton (), and extend Clifton's result that, for a host of states, his proposal yields no definite observables other than multiples of the identity. This leads Earman and Ruetsche to a (...) suspicion that troubles for modal interpretations of such relativistic theories "are due less to the Poincaré invariance of relativistic QFT vs. the Galilean invariance of ordinary nonrelativistic QM than to the infinite number of degrees of freedom of former vs. the finite number of degrees of freedom of the latter" (577-78). I am skeptical of this suggestion. Though there are troubles for modal interpretations of a relativistic quantum field theory that are due to its being a field theory—that is, due to infinitude of the degrees of freedom—they are not the only troubles faced by modal interpretations of quantum theories set in relativistic spacetime; there are also troubles traceable to relativistic causal structure. (shrink)
A Bayesian account of the virtue of unification is given. On this account, the ability of a theory to unify disparate phenomena consists in the ability of the theory to render such phenomena informationally relevant to each other. It is shown that such ability contributes to the evidential support of the theory, and hence that preference for theories that unify the phenomena need not, on a Bayesian account, be built into the prior probabilities of theories.
The hidden-variables model constructed by Karl Hess and Walter Philipp is claimed by its authors to exploit a "loophole" in Bell's theorem; according to Hess and Philipp, the parameters employed in their model extend beyond those considered by Bell. Furthermore, they claim that their model satisfies Einstein locality and is free of any "suspicion of spooky action at a distance." Both of these claims are false; the Hess-Philipp model achieves agreement with the quantum-mechanical predictions, not by circumventing Bell's theorem, but (...) via Parameter Dependence. (shrink)
Recent literature on Bohm's alternative to mainstream quantum mechanics may create the misleading impression that, except for perfunctory dismissals, the theory was ignored by the physics community in the years immediately following its proposal. As a matter of fact, Einstein, Pauli, and Heisenberg all published criticisms of Bohm's theory, explaining their reasons for not accepting the theory. These criticisms will be discussed and evaluated in this article.
In a recent paper, David Albert has suggested that no quantum theory can yield a description of the world unfolding in Minkowski spacetime. This conclusion is premature; a natural extension of Stein's notion of becoming in Minkowski spacetime to accommodate the demands of quantum nonseparability yields such an account, an account that is in accord with a proposal which was made by Aharonov and Albert but which is dismissed by Albert as a ‘mere trick’. The nature of such an account (...) is clarified by an extension to a relativistic quantum context of David Lewis' picture of objective chances evolving in time. 1 Introduction 2 Classical relativistic becoming 3 Relativistic quantum becoming, without collapse 4 Relativistic quantum becoming, with collapse 5 Objective chance, conditional probability, and definite properties 6 The nature of the wave function 7 Conclusion. (shrink)
A proof is given, at a greater level of generality than previous 'no-go' theorems, of the impossibility of formulating a modal interpretation that exhibits 'serious' Lorentz invariance at the fundamental level. Particular attention is given to modal interpretations of the type proposed by Bub.
In this paper, it is argued that the prima facie conflict between special relativity and the quantum-mechanical collapse postulate is only apparent, and that the seemingly incompatible accounts of entangled systems undergoing collapse yielded by different reference frames can be regarded as no more than differing accounts of the same processes and events. Attention to the transformation properties of quantum-mechanical states undergoing unitary, non-collapse evolution points the way to a treatment of collapse evolution consistent with the demands of relativity. r (...) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. (shrink)
This book is a discussion of the Everett relative-state interpretation of quantum mechanics and related “no collapse” interpretations. The book presumes that its readers will have some familiarity with quantum mechanics and with the interpretational issues connected with it. It would be suitable for use in an introductory graduate course on the philosophy of quantum mechanics, although even experts are likely to enjoy its clear summaries of the material in its purview.
The Akaike Information Criterion can be a valuable tool of scientific inference. This statistic, or any other statistical method for that matter, cannot, however, be the whole of scientific methodology. In this paper some of the limitations of Akaikean statistical methods are discussed. It is argued that the full import of empirical evidence is realized only by adopting a richer ideal of empirical success than predictive accuracy, and that the ability of a theory to turn phenomena into accurate, agreeing measurements (...) of causally relevant parameters contributes to the evidential support of the theory. This is illustrated by Newton's argument from orbital phenomena to the inverse-square law of gravitation. (shrink)
The ambition of this book is a noble one: to provide a counter to the assumption, taken for granted made by many postmodernists, that quantum mechanics lends support to the view that scienti® c realism is nothing more than an outmoded fad. It is especially gratifying that this book comes from a literary theorist, author of a well-respected book on Derrida (Norris, 1987), who, by his own admission, has ª previously published several books on literary theory that might be construed (...) ¼ as going along with the emergent trend towards anti-realism and cultural relativism in various quarters of `advanced’ theoretical debateº (Introduction, p. 1). One wishes, however, that Norris had taken more time to familiarize himself with issues that he writes about, and that he had taken more care in constructing his arguments. Although ª there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentanceº (Luke 15: 7, RSV), we should not let jubilation blind us to the book’ s shortcomings. Among these is a lack of clarity in its central notion, that of realism. Early on, Norris quotes with approval William Alston’ s characterization of the alethic conception of realism, which is the conception advocated by Norris; the alethic conception ª implies that (almost always) what confers a truth-value on a statement is something independent of the cognitive-linguistic goings-on that issued in that statement, including any epistemic status of those goings-onº (p. 41). As the book progresses, however, additional conditions on what is to count as a realist interpretation of quantum mechanics emerge. Realism apparently becomes synonymous with ª causal-explanatoryº theories, and in one passage, Norris goes so far as to suggest that realism entails a commitment to synthetic a priori knowledge of the physical world: Bell’ s calculations and those applied in interpreting the Aspect results are themselves dependentÐ no less than EPRÐ on a range of distinctly ª classicalº assumptions, among them the existence of a physical object-domain which, however puzzling its details, permits such experiments to be carried out and conclusions to be drawn from them.. (shrink)
There seems to be a growing consensus that any interpretation of quantum mechanics other than an instrumentalist interpretation will have to abandon the requirement of Lorentz invariance, at least at the fundamental level, preserving at best Lorentz invariance of phenomena. In particular, it is often said that the collapse postulate is incompatible with the demands of relativity. It is the purpose of this paper to argue that such a conclusion is premature, and to defend the view that a covariant account (...) of collapse can be given according to which the state histories yielded by different reference frames are the Lorentz transforms of each other. Objections that have been raised to such a view are considered. (shrink)
Andrew Wayne (1995) discusses some recent attempts to account, within a Bayesian framework, for the "common methodological adage" that "diverse evidence better confirms a hypothesis than does the same amount of similar evidence" (112). One of the approaches considered by Wayne is that suggested by Howson and Urbach (1989/1993) and dubbed the "correlation approach" by Wayne. This approach is, indeed, incomplete, in that it neglects the role of the hypothesis under consideration in determining what diversity in a body of evidence (...) is relevant diversity. In this paper, it is shown how this gap can be filled, resulting in a more satisfactory account of the evidential role of diversity of evidence. In addition, it is argued that Wayne's criticism of the correlation approach does not indicate a serious flaw in the approach. (shrink)