Unsharp Humean Chances in Statistical Physics: A Reply to Beisbart

Part of the The Philosophy of Science in a European Perspective book series (PSEP, volume 5)


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.


Probability Function Good System Axiom System Uniform Probability Distribution Clear Winner 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Claus Beisbart, Seamus Bradley and Leszek Wroński for helpful comments. We would also like to acknowledge the support of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation and the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)Ludwig-Maximilians-University of MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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