Defining Determinism

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (1):215-252 (2018)
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The article puts forward a branching-style framework for the analysis of determinism and indeterminism of scientific theories, starting from the core idea that an indeterministic system is one whose present allows for more than one alternative possible future. We describe how a definition of determinism stated in terms of branching models supplements and improves current treatments of determinism of theories of physics. In these treatments, we identify three main approaches: one based on the study of equations, one based on mappings between temporal realizations, and one based on branching models. We first give an overview of these approaches and show that current orthodoxy advocates a combination of the mapping- and the equations-based approaches. After giving a detailed formal explication of a branching-based definition of determinism, we consider three concrete applications and end with a formal comparison of the branching- and the mapping-based approach. We conclude that the branching-based definition of determinism most usefully combines formal clarity, connection with an underlying philosophical notion of determinism, and relevance for the practical assessment of theories. 1 Introduction2 Determinism in Philosophy of Science: Three Approaches2.1 Determinism: The core idea and how to spell it out2.2 The three approaches in more detail2.3 Representing indeterminism3 Orthodoxy: DMAP, with Invocations of DEQN4 Branching-Style Determinism 4.1 Models and realizations4.2 Faithfulness4.3 Two types of branching topologies 5 Comparing the Approaches5.1 Case studies5.2 Formal comparison of the DMAP and DBRN frameworks6 Conclusions.



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Thomas Muller
Universität Konstanz

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