The Past Hypothesis and the Nature of Physical Laws

In Barry Loewer, Eric Winsberg & Brad Weslake (eds.), The Probability Map of the Universe: Essays on David Albert's Time and Chance. Cambridge, Masschusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 204-248 (2023)
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If the Past Hypothesis underlies the arrows of time, what is the status of the Past Hypothesis? In this paper, I examine the role of the Past Hypothesis in the Boltzmannian account and defend the view that the Past Hypothesis is a candidate fundamental law of nature. Such a view is known to be compatible with Humeanism about laws, but as I argue it is also supported by a minimal non-Humean "governing'' view. Some worries arise from the non-dynamical and time-dependent character of the Past Hypothesis as a boundary condition, the intrinsic vagueness in its specification, and the nature of the initial probability distribution. I show that these worries do not have much force, and in any case they become less relevant in a new quantum framework for analyzing time's arrows---the Wentaculus. Hence, the view that the Past Hypothesis is a candidate fundamental law should be more widely accepted than it is now.

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Eddy Keming Chen
University of California, San Diego


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