T Falls Apart: On the Status of Classical Temperature in Relativity

Philosophy of Science:1-27 (2022)
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Taking the formal analogies between black holes and classical thermodynamics seriously seems to first require that classical thermodynamics applies in relativistic regimes. Yet, by scrutinizing how classical temperature is extended into special relativity, I argue that the concept falls apart. I examine four consilient procedures for establishing the classical temperature: the Carnot process, the thermometer, kinetic theory, and black-body radiation. I argue that their relativistic counterparts demonstrate no such consilience in defining the relativistic temperature. As such, classical temperature doesn’t appear to survive a relativistic extension. I suggest two interpretations for this situation: eliminativism akin to simultaneity, or pluralism akin to rotation.

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Eugene Chua
California Institute of Technology


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