Typical: A Theory of Typicality and Typicality Explanation

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (2):561-581 (2022)
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Abstract

Typicality is routinely invoked in everyday contexts: bobcats are typically short-tailed; people are typically less than seven feet tall. Typicality is invoked in scientific contexts as well: typical gases expand; typical quantum systems exhibit probabilistic behaviour. And typicality facts like these support many explanations, both quotidian and scientific. But what is it for something to be typical? And how do typicality facts explain? In this paper, I propose a general theory of typicality. I analyse the notion of a typical property. I provide a formalism for typicality explanations, and I give an account of why typicality explanations are explanatory. Along the way, I show how typicality facts explain a variety of phenomena, from everyday phenomena to the statistical mechanical behaviour of gases. Finally, I argue that typicality is not the same thing as probability.

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Isaac Wilhelm
National University of Singapore

Citations of this work

The Past Hypothesis and the Nature of Physical Laws.Eddy Keming Chen - forthcoming - In Barry Loewer, Eric Winsberg & Brad Weslake (eds.), Time's Arrows and the Probability Structure of the World. Harvard University Press.
Reviving Frequentism.Mario Hubert - 2021 - Synthese 199:5255–5584.
The Typical Principle.Isaac Wilhelm - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.

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References found in this work

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Causal explanation.David Lewis - 1986 - In Philosophical Papers Vol. Ii. Oxford University Press. pp. 214-240.
Are There Non-Causal Explanations (of Particular Events)?Brdford Skow - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (3):axs047.

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