Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 295–312 | Cite as

Evidence for the Deterministic or the Indeterministic Description? A Critique of the Literature About Classical Dynamical Systems

  • Charlotte Werndl


It can be shown that certain kinds of classical deterministic and indeterministic descriptions are observationally equivalent. Then the question arises: which description is preferable relative to evidence? This paper looks at the main argument in the literature for the deterministic description by Winnie (The cosmos of science—essays of exploration. Pittsburgh University Press, Pittsburgh, pp 299–324, 1998). It is shown that this argument yields the desired conclusion relative to in principle possible observations where there are no limits, in principle, on observational accuracy. Yet relative to the currently possible observations (of relevance in practice), relative to the actual observations, or relative to in principle observations where there are limits, in principle, on observational accuracy the argument fails. Then Winnie’s analogy between his argument for the deterministic description and his argument against the prevalence of Bernoulli randomness in deterministic descriptions is considered. It is argued that while the arguments are indeed analogous, it is also important to see they are disanalogous in another sense.


Determinism Indeterminism Observational equivalence Randomness Underdetermination 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific MethodLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK

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