On choosing between deterministic and indeterministic models: underdetermination and indirect evidence
- 301 Downloads
There are results which show that measure-theoretic deterministic models and stochastic models are observationally equivalent. Thus there is a choice between a deterministic and an indeterministic model and the question arises: Which model is preferable relative to evidence? If the evidence equally supports both models, there is underdetermination. This paper first distinguishes between different kinds of choice and clarifies the possible resulting types of underdetermination. Then a new answer is presented: the focus is on the choice between a Newtonian deterministic model supported by indirect evidence from other Newtonian models which invoke similar additional assumptions about the physical systems and a stochastic model that is not supported by indirect evidence. It is argued that the deterministic model is preferable. The argument against underdetermination is then generalised to a broader class of cases. Finally, the paper criticises the extant philosophical answers in relation to the preferable model. Winnie’s (1998) argument for the deterministic model is shown to deliver the correct conclusion relative to observations which are possible in principle and where there are no limits, in principle, on observational accuracy (the type of choice Winnie was concerned with). However, in practice the argument fails. A further point made is that Hoefer’s (2008) argument for the deterministic model is untenable.
KeywordsDeterminism Indeterminism Underdetermination Indirect evidence Choice Observational equivalence Newtonian physics Stochastic processes
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Butterfield, J. (2005). Determinism and indeterminism. Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy Online.Google Scholar
- Chernov N., Markarian R. (2006) Chaotic Billiards. American Mathematical Society, ProvidenceGoogle Scholar
- Frigg R. (2008) A field guide to recent work on the foundations of statistical mechanics. In: Rickles D. (Ed.) The Ashgate companion to contemporary philosophy of physics. Ashgate, London, pp 99–196Google Scholar
- Hoefer, C. (2008). Causal determinism. In E. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopaedia of philosophy (Winter 2008 Edition). Stanford. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2008/entries/determinism-causal/.
- Ladyman J. (2002) Understanding philosophy of science. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Petersen K. (1989) Ergodic theory. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Suppes P., de Barros A. (1996) Photons, billiards and chaos. In: Weingartner P., Schurz G. (eds) Law and prediction in the light of chaos research. Springer, Berlin, pp 190–201Google Scholar
- Werndl C. (2009b) Deterministic versus indeterministic descriptions: Not that different after all?. In: Hieke A., Leitgeb H. (eds) Reduction, abstraction, analysis, proceedings of the 31st international Ludwig Wittgenstein-symposium. Ontos, Frankfurt, pp 63–78Google Scholar
- Winnie J. (1998) Deterministic chaos and the nature of chance. In: Earman J., Norton J. (eds) The cosmos of science–essays of exploration. Pittsburgh University Press, Pittsburgh, pp 299–324Google Scholar