Philosophy Research Seminar - Dr Katie Robertson
Dr Katie Robertson, University of Birmingham
G2, Cotham House
Asymmetry and Autonomy in the Special Sciences
Fodor (1997) famously claimed that the special sciences are still autonomous - after all these years. But Loewer (2009) has criticised Fodor’s view of autonomy for wavering between a trivial methodological reading and an implausible metaphysical reading. In this talk, I offer a new account of autonomy in terms of ‘conditional irrelevance’.
I then apply this account to a thorny problem: how to reconcile the time-asymmetry of macroscopic dynamics with the time-symmetry of the underlying microdynamics. Using a coarse-graining framework, I show how the macroscopic time-asymmetric equations in statistical mechanics can be constructed from the underlying time-symmetric microdynamics.
But this framework uses coarse-graining which has been heavily criticised; Redhead (1996) calls it “one of the most deceitful artifices I have ever come across in theoretical physics”. I defend coarse-graining, and then draw some morals for the nature of time-asymmetry and the status of the special science of statistical mechanics.