Why equilibrium statistical mechanics works: Universality and the renormalization group

Philosophy of Science 65 (2):183-208 (1998)
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Discussions of the foundations of Classical Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics (SM) typically focus on the problem of justifying the use of a certain probability measure (the microcanonical measure) to compute average values of certain functions. One would like to be able to explain why the equilibrium behavior of a wide variety of distinct systems (different sorts of molecules interacting with different potentials) can be described by the same averaging procedure. A standard approach is to appeal to ergodic theory to justify this choice of measure. A different approach, eschewing ergodicity, was initiated by A. I. Khinchin. Both explanatory programs have been subjected to severe criticisms. This paper argues that the Khinchin type program deserves further attention in light of relatively recent results in understanding the physics of universal behavior



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Robert W. Batterman
University of Pittsburgh

Citations of this work

Emergence, Singularities, and Symmetry Breaking.Robert W. Batterman - 2011 - Foundations of Physics 41 (6):1031-1050.
Multiple Realizability and Universality.Robert W. Batterman - 2000 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (1):115-145.
Non-Reductive Physicalism and Degrees of Freedom.Jessica M. Wilson - 2010 - British Journal for Philosophy of Science 61 (2):279-311.

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References found in this work

Statistical Explanation and Ergodic Theory.Lawrence Sklar - 1973 - Philosophy of Science 40 (2):194-212.

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