David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In Helen Beebee & Nigel Sabbarton-Leary (eds.), The Semantics and Metaphysics of Natural Kinds. Routledge (2010)
Humeans and non-Humeans reasonably agree that there may be necessary connections between entities that are identical or merely partly distinct—between, e.g., sets and their individual members, fusions and their individual parts, instances of determinates and determinables, members of certain natural kinds and certain of their intrinsic properties, and (especially among physicalists) certain physical and mental states. Humeans maintain, however, that as per “Hume’s Dictum”, there are no necessary connections between entities that are wholly distinct;1 and in particular, no necessary causal connections between such entities (even when the background conditions requisite for causation are in place). The Humean’s differential treatment appears principled, in reflecting that commonly accepted necessary connections involve constitutional relations, whereas wholly distinct entities (notably, causes and effects) do not constitute each other. I’ll argue, however, that the appearance of principle is not genuine, as per the following conditional: Constitutional→Causal: If one accepts certain constitutional necessities, one should accept certain causal necessities. This result provides needed leverage in assessing the two main frameworks in the metaphysics of science, treating natural kinds, causes, laws of nature, and the like. These frameworks differ primarily on whether Hume’s Dictum is taken as a working constraint on theorizing; and it has proved difficult for either side to criticize the other without presupposing their preferred stance on the dictum, hence talking past one another. The arguments for Constitutional→Causal are based, however, in general and independent considerations about what facts in the world might plausibly warrant our beliefs in certain constitutional necessities involving broadly scientific entities. The Humean can respond to these arguments, which reveal a deep tension in their view, at attendant costs of implausibilty and adhocery. The non-Humean framework doesn’t face any such tension between constitutional and causal necessities, however, and so in this respect comes out ahead.
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