Causal explanations in classical and statistical thermodynamics

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

Abstract
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
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DOI 10.1086/288977
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