Typical: A Theory of Typicality and Typicality Explanation

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (2):561-581 (2022)
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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 - 2023 - In Barry Loewer, Brad Weslake & Eric B. Winsberg (eds.), The Probability Map of the Universe: Essays on David Albert’s _time and Chance_. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 204-248.
Reviving Frequentism.Mario Hubert - 2021 - Synthese 199:5255–5584.
Philosophy of statistical mechanics.Lawrence Sklar - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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How the laws of physics lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
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Philosophical Papers.Graeme Forbes & David Lewis - 1985 - Philosophical Review 94 (1):108.

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