A new paper by Michael Townsen Hicks and Alastair Wilson, developed as part of the FraMEPhys project and now forthcoming in Noûs, urges us to rethink the role of chance in the explanation of physical events.
“How Chance Explains”
Abstract: What explains the outcomes of chance processes? We claim that their setups do. Chances, we think, mediate these explanations of outcome by setup but do not feature in them. Facts about chances do feature in explanations of a different kind: higher-order explanations, which explain how and why setups explain their outcomes. In this paper, we elucidate this ‘mediator view’ of chancy explanation and defend it from a series of objections. We then show how it changes the playing field in four metaphysical disputes concerning chance. First, it makes it more plausible that even low chances can have explanatory power. Second, it undercuts a circularity objection against reductionist theories of chance. Third, it redirects the debate about a prominent argument against epistemic theories of chance. Finally, it sheds light on potential chancy explanations of the Universe’s origin.