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Workshop: Philosophy of Physics

On January 15 the Department of Theoretical Philosophy hosts a workshop on Philosophy of Physics with talks by Pablo Acuna, Charlotte Werndl, and Simon Friederich. There are short breaks between the talks. Everybody is cordially invited!

Time table
  • 14:00 Simon Friederich (Groningen):
    "Re-thinking local causality"
  • 15:00 Charlotte Werndl (Salzburg):
    "Reconceptualising equilibrium in Boltzmannian statistical mechanics and characterising its existence"
  • 16:00 Pablo Acuna Luongo (Valparaiso):
    "On the empirical equivalence between special relativity and Lorentz׳s ether theory"
Re-thinking local causality
Simon Friederich (Groningen)

There is widespread belief in a tension between quantum theory and special relativity, motivated by the idea that quantum theory violates J. S. Bell's criterion of local causality, which is meant to implement the causal structure of relativistic space-time. I argue that if one takes the essential intuitive idea behind local causality to be that probabilities in a locally causal theory depend only on what occurs in the backward light cone and if one regards objective probability as what imposes constraints on rational credence along the lines of David Lewis' Principal Principle, then one arrives at the view that whether or not Bell's criterion holds is irrelevant for whether or not local causality holds. I highlight the assumptions on which this argument rests and motivate those that may seem controversial.

Reconceptualising equilibrium in Boltzmannian statistical mechanics and characterising its existence
Charlotte Werndl (Salzburg)

In Boltzmannian statistical mechanics macro-states supervene on micro-states. This leads to a partitioning of the state space of a system into regions of macroscopically indistinguishable micro-states. The largest of these regions is singled out as the equilibrium region of the system. What justifies this association? We review currently available answers to this question and find them wanting both for conceptual and for technical reasons. We propose a new conception of equilibrium and prove a mathematical theorem which establishes in full generality -- i.e. without making any assumptions about the system's dynamics or the nature of the interactions between its components -- that the equilibrium macro-region is the largest macro-region. We then turn to the question of the approach to equilibrium, of which there exists no satisfactory general answer so far. In our account, this question is replaced by the question when an equilibrium state exists. We       prove another (again fully general) theorem providing necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of an equilibrium state. This theorem changes the way in which the question of the approach to equilibrium should be discussed: rather than launching a search for a crucial factor (such as ergodicity or typicality), the focus should be on finding triplets of macro-variables, dynamical conditions, and effective state spaces that satisfy the conditions of the theorem.

On the empirical equivalence between special relativity and Lorentz׳s ether theory

Pablo Acuna Luongo (Valparaiso)

In this paper I argue that the case of Einstein׳s special relativity vs. Hendrik Lorentz׳s ether theory can be decided in terms of empirical evidence, in spite of the predictive equivalence between the theories. In the historical and philosophical literature this case has been typically addressed focusing on non-empirical features (non-empirical virtues in special relativity and/or non-empirical flaws in the ether theory). I claim that non-empirical features are not enough to provide a fully objective and uniquely determined choice in instances of empirical equivalence. However, I argue that if we consider arguments proposed by Richard Boyd, and by Larry Laudan and Jarret Leplin, a choice based on non-entailed empirical evidence favoring Einstein׳s theory can be made.

Last modified:05 January 2015 2.44 p.m.