Master of Arts
Date of Defense
The term 'random' is used both popularly and in science in different senses. Randomness sometimes refers to our subjective epistemological inability to discern structure and other times to objective lack of structure in an observed phenomenon. This thesis argues that the best understanding of 'random' should be as a profitable heuristic, similar to imaginary numbers and potential infinities, under the rubric of epistemological randomness (ER). It further argues that positive claims of metaphysical randomness (MR) must be justified by both internality and indeterminacy. Internality acts as a criterion that controls for external causal influences in a given phenomenon. Indeterminacy requires that the expressed observable behavior be considered an absence of physical law that regulates the behavior. While paradigmatic cases (e.g. gamma radiation bursts, genetic mutation, gene mutation, and radioactive decay) are assessed as potential validation of MR, no justification is found for distinguishing quantum internally indeterminate events from wrongful ascriptions of randomness from internally determinate entities (e.g. a 'random number sequence' from π). The thesis concludes that there is no substantive reason to assert metaphysical randomness over and above epistemological randomness.
Johnson, Andrew Michael, "Distinguishing Between Metaphysical and Epistemological Randomness" (2004). Theses. 207.