Deterministic and Indeterministic Descriptions in Physics

Dr Robert C. Bishop, Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, London School of Economics.
Wednesday 13th November, 2002

In the practice of physics, a very general and precise description of a deterministic process in terms of group or semigroup operators can be given, at least in the context of classical particle mechanics. This description is characterized by three crucial properties: differential dynamics, unique evolution and value determinateness. In contrast quantum mechanics offers some models for indeterministic processes, but an accepted analogous general description of indeterministic physical processes is lacking. It is clear that one of the elements of an indeterministic description is that it should be expressed in terms of semigroup operators, since indeterministic processes are time irreversible. What other elements are necessary and sufficient to qualify a description as indeterministic remain unclarified, however. Some of the problems with indeterministic descriptions will be reviewed.

Last updated: Friday, 01-Nov-2002 14:45:00 CET