Dynamic and stochastic systems as a framework for metaphysics and the philosophy of science

Synthese 198 (3):2551-2612 (2021)
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Abstract

Scientists often think of the world as a dynamical system, a stochastic process, or a generalization of such a system. Prominent examples of systems are the system of planets orbiting the sun or any other classical mechanical system, a hydrogen atom or any other quantum–mechanical system, and the earth’s atmosphere or any other statistical mechanical system. We introduce a general and unified framework for describing such systems and show how it can be used to examine some familiar philosophical questions, including the following: how can we define nomological possibility, necessity, determinism, and indeterminism; what are symmetries and laws; what regularities must a system display to make scientific inference possible; how might principles of parsimony such as Occam’s Razor help when we make such inferences; what is the role of space and time in a system; and might they be emergent features? Our framework is intended to serve as a toolbox for the formal analysis of systems that is applicable in several areas of philosophy.

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Christian List
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München

Citations of this work

Laws of Nature as Constraints.Emily Adlam - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (1):1-41.
Aggregating Causal Judgments.Richard Bradley, Franz Dietrich & Christian List - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (4):491-515.
The ergodic hierarchy.Roman Frigg & Joseph Berkovitz - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Laws and Symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.

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