This chapter defends and refines a specific objectivist interpretation of probabilities in statistical mechanics. For ergodic systems, probabilities are defined as time-averages. For other systems, ergodic decomposition is applied, and stochastic nomological machines are used to assign probabilities over the members of the decomposition. The relevance of this analysis to the Boltzmann and Gibbs approaches to statistical mechanics is discussed. The chapter shows that the proposed definition of probabilities matches a Boltzmann-like approach particularly well if the sharp distinction between equilibrium and non-equilibrium is given up and if more emphasis is laid upon the global time profile of entropy. The chapter furthermore argues that the alleged weaknesses of the time-average definition of probability are avoided.
Keywords: probabilities; statistical mechanics; time-average; ergodic decomposition; nomological machines; equilibrium; Boltzmann; Gibbs
Chapter. 15202 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Philosophy of Science
Full text: subscription required