Statistical explanation and ergodic theory

Philosophy of Science 40 (2):194-212 (1973)
Some philosphers of science of an empiricist and pragmatist bent have proposed models of statistical explanation, but have then become sceptical of the adequacy of these models. It is argued that general considerations concerning the purpose of function of explanation in science which are usually appealed to by such philosophers show that their scepticism is not well taken; for such considerations provide much the same rationale for the search for statistical explanations, as these philosophers have characterized them, as they do for lawlike explanations. But, it is further argued, a significant piece of what is frequently offered as an explanation of well known phenomena in statistical mechanics, fails to meet this general "pragmatic rationale" for statistical, or indeed any kind of, explanation. The question then arises whether the physicists have misconstrued the value of this piece of physical theorizing, ergodic theory, taking it to be explanatory when it is actually not; or whether, instead, the philosopher's account of just what is genuinely explanatory is too narrow
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DOI 10.1086/288515
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Jessica M. Wilson (2010). Non-Reductive Physicalism and Degrees of Freedom. British Journal for Philosophy of Science 61 (2):279-311.
Jill North (2010). An Empirical Approach to Symmetry and Probability. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 41 (1):27-40.

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