How Typical! An Epistemological Analysis of Typicality in Statistical Mechanics


The recent use of typicality in statistical mechanics for foundational purposes has stirred an important debate involving both philosophers and physicists. While this debate customarily focuses on technical issues, in this paper I try to approach the problem from an epistemological angle. The discussion is driven by two questions: (1) What does typicality add to the concept of measure? (2) What kind of explanation, if any, does typicality yield? By distinguishing the notions of `typicality-as-vast-majority' and `typicality-as-best-exemplar', I argue that the former goes beyond the concept of measure. Furthermore, I also argue that typicality aims at providing us with a form of causal explanation of equilibrium.

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Massimiliano Badino
Università degli Studi di Verona


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