Laplacean determinism in the light of physical theories of classical mechanics

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Andrzej Koleżyński


There has been a long-standing debate in philosophical literature about the relationship of predictability and determinism. Some philosophers have claimed that determinism implies predictability; some have claimed the opposite and the others that there are no direct implication relations between these two concepts. According to the above, there are various notions of determinism and predictability at work in the philosophical literature. In contrast, in scientific tradition, the belief that any deterministic system is predictable has long history and is based on the power of the intuitions lying behind the concept of physical determinism, confirmed by many experiments. In this essay, the author focuses on the Laplacean vision for determinism and predictability (or more precisely on what he takes to be such a vision). While many forms of predictability are inconsistent with this vision, he argues that a suitably modified notion of predictability, defined within a framework of model notion of physical determinism, is implied by the Laplacean concept of determinism and, after some modifications, by other modern theories in physics, chemistry and related sciences. It is also argued, that such modified concept of predictability is consistent with common practice of scientists, and any attempt to find out whether a given scientific theory is deterministic, should be accompanied by careful analysis and appropriate modification of constituent elements of modern notion of determinism.

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Koleżyński, A. (2007). Laplacean determinism in the light of physical theories of classical mechanics. Philosophical Problems in Science (Zagadnienia Filozoficzne W Nauce), (40), 59–75. Retrieved from


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