New Directions in the Philosophy of Science

Volume 5 of the series The Philosophy of Science in a European Perspective pp 531-542


Unsharp Humean Chances in Statistical Physics: A Reply to Beisbart

  • Radin DardashtiAffiliated withMunich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP), Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich Email author 
  • , Luke GlynnAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University College London
  • , Karim ThébaultAffiliated withMunich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP), Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich
  • , Mathias FrischAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Maryland

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In an illuminating paper, Beisbart (Beisbart C, Good just isn’t good enough – Humean chances and Boltzmannian statistical physics. In: Galavotti MC, Dieks D (eds) New directions in the philosophy of science. Springer, Dordrecht, 2014) argues that the recently-popular thesis that the probabilities of statistical mechanics (SM) can function as Best System chances runs into a serious obstacle: there is no one axiomatization of SM that is robustly best, as judged by the theoretical virtues of simplicity, strength, and fit. Beisbart takes this “no clear winner” result to imply that the probabilities yielded by the competing axiomatizations simply fail to count as Best System chances. In this reply, we express sympathy for the “no clear winner” thesis, however we argue that an importantly different moral should be drawn from this. We contend that the implication for Humean chances of there being no uniquely best axiomatization of SM is not that there are no SM chances, but rather that SM chances fail to be sharp.