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Synopsis

Statistical mechanics attempts to explain the behaviour of macroscopic physical systems in terms of the mechanical properties of their constituents. Although it is one of the fundamental theories of physics, it has received little attention from philosophers of science. Nevertheless, it raises philosophical questions of fundamental importance on the nature of time, chance and reduction. Most philosophical issues in this domain relate to the question of the reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics. This book addresses issues inherent in this reduction: the time-asymmetry of thermodynamics and its absence in statistical mechanics; the role and essential nature of chance and probability in this reduction when thermodynamics is non-probabilistic; and how, if at all, the reduction is possible. Compiling contributions on current research by experts in the field, this is an invaluable survey of the philosophy of statistical mechanics for academic researchers and graduate students interested in the foundations of physics.

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