Introduction to the Philosophy of Statistical Mechanics: Can Probability Explain the Arrow of Time in the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

Philosophy Compass 6 (9):640-651 (2011)
The arrow of time is a familiar phenomenon we all know from our experience: we remember the past but not the future and control the future but not the past. However, it takes an effort to keep records of the past, and to affect the future. For example, it would take an immense effort to unmix coffee and milk, although we easily mix them. Such time directed phenomena are sub- sumed under the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This law characterizes our experience of the arrow of time in terms of an increase of a theoretical magnitude called entropy. Statistical mechan- ics tries to explain the Second Law as an effect of the behavior of the microscopic particles that make up the universe. Since our senses are too coarse to see this microstructure, statistical mechanics describes our experience in terms of probability, or in terms of the partial information we have about the particles. In this paper we explain the workings of statistical mechanics; how it accounts for probability as an objective feature of the world based on the underlying dynamics; how it accounts for our memories of the past; how the statistical mechanical probability under- writes the Second Law; and how, at the same time, it leads to a violation of the Second Law by the so-called Maxwell’s Demon.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2011.00424.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,685
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Time and Chance.David Z. Albert - 2000 - Harvard University Press.
Determinism and Chance.B. Loewer - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 32 (4):609-620.
The “Past Hypothesis”: Not Even False.John Earman - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 37 (3):399-430.

View all 15 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

70 ( #73,955 of 2,158,346 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #355,511 of 2,158,346 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums