"Dialectical Aspects of Statistical Thermodynamics"

"Opposites are complementary."—Niels Bohr
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Post by YoungHegelian » Sun Nov 08, 2020 10:05 am

I'm not pretending to understand what this paper is about - actually "Dialectical Aspects of Statistical Thermodynamics" is a section of a paper. The whole paper is called "On the Foundations of Statistical Thermodynamics" and, like everything else I've posted recently, it's from the Selected Papers of Leon Rosenfeld:
Looking back on the preceding analysis of the atomistic theory of heat, I should like, in conclusion, to stress once more the epistemological principles which find such a striking illustration in the development of this theory. Above all, we realize that only the patterns of dialectical logic are flexible enough to formulate adequately the peculiar relationship between the atomistic picture and the macroscopic laws it purports to explain. Any attempt to follow rigidly a line of deduction exclusively based on atomistic conceptions, without paying due regard to the limitations imposed upon such deductions by the requirements of the macroscopic mode of description, inevitably leads to the impasse characterized by the famous paradoxes of Loschmidt and Zermelo: the behaviour of atomistic systems does not exhibit any irreversibility. The second law of thermodynamics therefore appears, if one attributes it absolute validity, as the very negation of atomic theory. Such a dilemma cannot be resolved by any superficial patching up of the antithetic conceptions, but only by the introduction of a radically new point of view, from which these conceptions can be indissolubly integrated into a true synthesis.

The unfolding of this dialectical process can be clearly discerned in the historical development of the subject. It was actually Clausius himself, the discoverer of the second law, who gave the first impulse to a renewed analysis on atomistic lines of the thermal properties of matter; and this re-assertion of atomic theory found its completion in the emergence of the statistical viewpoint, which confers on it its new synthetic character. The protagonists of this dialectical drama were blissfully ignorant of the arcana of Hegelian logic, but they keenly realized the novelty of the momentous step they had taken: "The modem atomists", wrote Maxwell, "have adopted a method which is, I believe, new in the department of mathematical physics, though it has long been in use in the section of Statistics."
—Selected Papers of Leon Rosenfeld, "On the Foundations of Statistical Thermodynamics" (1955) p. 801-2

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