of Shakespeare is, in this respect, not inappropriate.
One of the most frequently dis-cussed aspects of the Second Law is its relation with the ‘arrow of time’. In fact, inmany texts in philosophy of physics the Second Law ﬁgures as an emblem of thisarrow. The idea is, roughly, that typical thermodynamical processes are irreversible,i.e. they can only occur in one sense only, and that this is relevant for the distinction between past and future.At ﬁrst sight, the Second Law is indeed relevant for this arrow. If the entropycan only increase during a thermodynamical process, then obviously, a reversal of this process is not possible. Many authors believe this is a crucial feature, if not thevery essence of the Second Law. Planck, for example, claimed that, were it not forthe existence of irreversible processes, ‘the entire ediﬁce of the second law wouldcrumble [...] and theoretical work would have to start from the beginning.’ (Planck1897,
113), and viewed entropy increase as a ‘universal measure of irreversibility’(ibid.
134). A similar view is expressed by Sklar in his recent book on the foun-dations of statistical mechanics (1993, p. 21): ‘The crucial fact needed to justify theintroduction of [...] a deﬁnite entropy value is the irreversibility of physical pro-cesses.’In this respect, thermodynamics seems to stand in sharp contrast with the rest of classical physics, in particular with mechanics which, at least in Hamilton’s formu-lation, is symmetric under time reversal. The problem of reconciling this thermody-namical arrow of time with a mechanical world picture is usually seen as the mostprofound problem in the foundations of thermal and statistical physics; see Davies(1974), Mackey (1992), Zeh (1992), Sklar (1993) and Price (1996).However, this is only one of many problems awaiting a student of the SecondLaw. There are also authors expressing the opposite viewpoint. Bridgman writes:
Itisalmostalwaysemphasizedthatthermodynamicsisconcernedwithreversibleprocesses and equilibrium states and that it can have nothing to do with irre-versible processes or systems out of equilibrium ...(Bridgman 1941, p. 133)
It is not easy to square this view, —and the fact that Bridgman presents it as prevail-ing among thermodynamicists— with the idea that irreversibility is essential to theSecond Law.Indeed, one can ﬁnd other authors maintaining that the Second Law has littleto do with irreversibility or the arrow of time; in particular Ehrenfest-Afanassjewa,
, SnowexpressedregretforcomparingtheSecondLaw to a work of Shakespeare, due to the formidable conceptual problems connected with the former.