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Probabilities in Physics$
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Claus Beisbart and Stephan Hartmann

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199577439

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577439.001.0001

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Subjective Probability and Statistical Physics

Subjective Probability and Statistical Physics

Chapter:
(p.25) 2 Subjective Probability and Statistical Physics
Source:
Probabilities in Physics
Author(s):

Jos Uffink

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577439.003.0002

This chapter examines subjectivist interpretations of probabilities in statistical physics. It provides an introduction to subjectivism about probabilities and its main tenets by tracing its history, ranging from Bernoulli up to Ramsey and de Finetti. The chapter also analyzes foundational work in statistical physics by Maxwell and Boltzmann and finds that, at a surface level, subjective probabilities were often rejected. However, some assumptions in statistical physics are better understood if the probabilities are taken as subjective. From a systematic point of view, the chapter argues that subjectivism provides a viable interpretation of probabilities in statistical mechanics. However, claims to the effect that subjectivism can overcome problems with more objectivist interpretations are rejected. In particular, Jaynes' argument for the Second Law of Thermodynamics is found wanting.

Keywords:   probabilities, statistical mechanics, subjectivism, Second Law of Thermodynamics, Maxwell, Boltzmann, de Finetti, E. T. Jaynes

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