Chance and Determinism

In Eleanor Knox & Alastair Wilson (eds.), Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Physics. Routledge (2022)
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This chapter focuses on the relations between objective probabilities in physical theories at different levels. In general philosophy of probability, it is frequently assumed that a fundamental deterministic theory cannot support probabilistic phenomena at any higher level, or more generally that there cannot be non-trivial probabilities in higher-level theories that are not encoded in probabilities at the lower level. These assumptions face significant challenges from some well-understood physical theories – I focus on statistical mechanics and Bohmian mechanics – where a deterministic description at some lower level gives rise to an effectively probabilistic theory at some higher level; in each case, constraints arising from an objective physical limitation on the acquisition of evidence concerning the lower level plays a crucial role in supporting the higher-level probabilities.
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