Foundation of statistical mechanics: The auxiliary hypotheses

Orly Shenker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Statistical mechanics is the name of the ongoing attempt to explain and predict certain phenomena, above all those described by thermodynamics on the basis of the fundamental theories of physics, in particular mechanics (classical or quantum), together with certain auxiliary assumptions. In another paper in this journal, Foundations of statistical mechanics: Mechanics by itself, I have shown that some of the thermodynamic regularities, including the probabilistic ones, can be described in terms of mechanics by itself. But in order to prove those regularities, in particular the time asymmetric ones, it is necessary to add to mechanics assumptions of three kinds, all of which are under debate in contemporary literature. One kind of assumptions concerns measure and probability, and here, a major debate is around the notion of “typicality.” A second assumption concerns initial conditions, and here, the debate is about the nature and status of the so-called past hypothesis. The third kind of assumptions concerns the dynamics, and here, the possibility and significance of “Maxwell's Demon” is the main topic of discussions. This article describes these assumptions and examines the justification for introducing them, emphasizing the contemporary debates around them.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere12464
JournalPhilosophy Compass
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017

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© 2017 The Author(s) Philosophy Compass © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


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