Causal explanations in classical and statistical thermodynamics

Philosophy of Science 48 (1):65-77 (1981)

This paper considers the problem of causal explanation in classical and statistical thermodynamics. It is argued that the irreversibility of macroscopic processes is explained in both formulations of thermodynamics in a teleological way that appeals to entropic or probabilistic consequences rather than to efficient-causal, antecedental conditions. This explanatory structure of thermodynamics is not taken to imply a teleological orientation to macroscopic processes themselves, but to reflect simply the epistemological limitations of this science, wherein consequences of heat-work asymmetries are either macroscopically measurable (entropy) or calculable (probabilities), while efficient-causal relationships are obscure or indeterminable
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1086/288977
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 45,434
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Robust Processes and Teleological Language.Jonathan Birch - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (3):299-312.
The Five Marks of the Mental.Tuomas K. Pernu - 2017 - Frontiers in Psychology 8.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Time in Thermodynamics.Jill North - 2011 - In Criag Callender (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time. Oxford University Press. pp. 312--350.
Are Statistical Explanations Possible?Lorenz Kruger - 1976 - Philosophy of Science 43 (1):129-146.
Contrastive, Non-Probabilistic Statistical Explanations.Bruce Glymour - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (3):448-471.
Chance in Boltzmannian Statistical Mechanics.Roman Frigg - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (5):670-681.
The Limits of Information.D. J. - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32 (4):511-524.


Added to PP index

Total views
238 ( #29,150 of 2,280,327 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #831,075 of 2,280,327 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature