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What's so special about initial conditions? Understanding the past hypothesis in directionless time

Farr, Matt (2021) What's so special about initial conditions? Understanding the past hypothesis in directionless time. [Preprint]

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Abstract

It is often said that the world is explained by laws of nature together with initial conditions. But does that mean initial conditions don’t require further explanation? And does the explanatory role played by initial conditions entail or require that time has a preferred direction? This chapter looks at the use of the ‘initialness defence’ in physics, the idea that initial conditions are intrinsically special in that they don’t require further explanation, unlike the state of the world at other times. Such defences commonly assume a primitive directionality of time to distinguish between initial and final conditions. Using the case study of the time-asymmetry of thermodynamics and the so-called ‘past hypothesis’ — the hypothesis that the early universe was in a state of very low entropy —, I outline and support a deflationary account of the initialness defence that does not presuppose a basic directionality of time, and argue that there is a relevant explanatory asymmetry between initial conditions and the state of systems at other times only if certain causal conditions are satisfied. Hence, the initialness defence is available to those who reject a fundamental direction of time.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Farr, Mattmail@mattfarr.co.uk0000-0001-6238-7990
Additional Information: To appear in: Yemima Ben-Menahem (ed), Rethinking Laws of Nature, Springer.
Keywords: Time, past hypothesis, direction of time, explanation, initial conditions, cosmology, thermodynamics
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Conventionalism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Cosmology
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
Depositing User: Dr Matt Farr
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2021 04:50
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2021 04:50
Item ID: 19905
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Conventionalism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Cosmology
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Specific Sciences > Physics > Statistical Mechanics/Thermodynamics
Date: November 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19905

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