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What is a Law of Nature?

Cambridge University Press (1983)

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  1. Non-Humean Laws and Scientific Practice.Robert Smithson - 2020 - Erkenntnis 87 (6):2871-2895.
    Laws of nature have various roles in scientific practice. It is widely agreed that an adequate theory of lawhood ought to align with the roles that scientists assign to the laws. But philosophers disagree over whether Humean laws or non-Humean laws are better at filling these roles. In this paper, I provide an argument for settling this dispute. I consider possible situations in which scientists receive conclusive evidence that—according to the non-Humean—falsifies their beliefs about the laws, but which—according to the (...)
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  • An Armstrongian Defense of Dispositional Monist Accounts of Laws of Nature.Mousa Mohammadian - 2022 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 12 (3):1-15.
    Bird reveals an important problem at the heart of Armstrong’s theory of laws of nature: to explain how a law necessitates its corresponding regularity, Armstrong is committed to a vicious regress. In his very brief response, Armstrong gestures towards an argument that, as he admits, is more of a “speculation.” Later, Barker and Smart argue that a very similar problem threatens Bird’s dispositional monist theory of laws of nature and he is committed to a similar vicious regress. In this paper, (...)
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  • Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2003 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    How does science work? Does it tell us what the world is "really" like? What makes it different from other ways of understanding the universe? In Theory and Reality , Peter Godfrey-Smith addresses these questions by taking the reader on a grand tour of one hundred years of debate about science. The result is a completely accessible introduction to the main themes of the philosophy of science. Intended for undergraduates and general readers with no prior background in philosophy, Theory and (...)
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  • A Theory of Presentism.Craig Bourne - 2006 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (1):1-23.
    Most of us would want to say that it is true that Socrates taught Plato. According to realists about past facts, this is made true by the fact that there is, located in the past, i.e., earlier than now, at least one real event that is the teaching of Plato by Socrates. Presentists, however, in denying that past events and facts exist cannot appeal to such facts to make their past-tensed Statements true. So what is a presentist to do?There are (...)
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  • Lange’s Challenge: Accounting for Meta-Laws.Zanja Yudell - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (2):347-369.
    Lange issues a novel challenge to philosophical accounts of laws of nature. He notes that the laws of nature seem to be themselves governed by laws analogous to the way that the laws govern particular facts. These higher order laws are the meta-laws of nature. He claims that if a philosophical account of laws aims to accurately characterize the laws, it should be able to account for these meta-laws. To generalize this challenge, I introduce the notion of roles played by (...)
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  • Natural Laws and Divine Intervention: What Difference Does Being Pentecostal or Charismatic Make?Amos Yong - 2008 - Zygon 43 (4):961-989.
    The question about divine action remains contested in the discussion between theology and science. This issue is further exacerbated with the entry of pentecostals and charismatics into the conversation, especially with their emphases on divine intervention and miracles. I explore what happens at the intersection of these discourses, identifying first how the concept of "laws of nature" has developed in theology and science and then probing what pentecostal-charismatic insights might add into the mix. Drawing from the triadic and evolutionary metaphysics (...)
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  • The Essence of Dispositional Essentialism.David Yates - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (1):93-128.
    Dispositional essentialists argue that physical properties have their causal roles essentially. This is typically taken to mean that physical properties are identical to dispositions. I argue that this is untenable, and that we must instead say that properties bestow dispositions. I explore what it is for a property to have such a role essentially. Dispositional essentialists argue for their view by citing certain epistemological and metaphysical implications, and I appeal to these implications to place desiderata on the concept of essence (...)
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  • Neural Synchrony and the Causal Efficacy of Consciousness.David Yates - 2020 - Topoi 39 (5):1057-1072.
    The purpose of this paper is to address a well-known dilemma for physicalism. If mental properties are type identical to physical properties, then their causal efficacy is secure, but at the cost of ruling out mentality in creatures very different to ourselves. On the other hand, if mental properties are multiply realizable, then all kinds of creatures can instantiate them, but then they seem to be causally redundant. The causal exclusion problem depends on the widely held principle that realized properties (...)
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  • Simplicity in the Best Systems Account of Laws of Nature.James Woodward - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (1):91-123.
    This article discusses the role of simplicity and the notion of a best balance of simplicity and strength within the best systems account (BSA) of laws of nature. The article explores whether there is anything in scientific practice that corresponds to the notion of simplicity or to the trade-off between simplicity and strength to which the BSA appeals. Various theoretical rationales for simplicity preferences and their bearing on the identification of laws are also explored. It is concluded that there are (...)
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  • Realism About Laws.James Woodward - 1992 - Erkenntnis 36 (2):181-218.
    This paper explores the idea that laws express relationships between properties or universals as defended in Michael Tooley's recent book Causation: A Realist Approach. I suggest that the most plausible version of realism will take a different form than that advocated by Tooley. According to this alternative, laws are grounded in facts about the capacities and powers of particular systems, rather than facts about relations between universals. The notion of lawfulness is linked to the notion of invariance, rather than to (...)
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  • Laws and Causes. [REVIEW]James Woodward - 1990 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 41 (4):553-573.
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  • Counterfactuals All the Way Down?: Marc Lange: Laws and Lawmakers: Science, Metaphysics, and the Laws of Nature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, 280 Pp, $99 HB, $24.95 PB.Jim Woodward, Barry Loewer, John W. Carroll & Marc Lange - 2011 - Metascience 20 (1):27-52.
    Counterfactuals all the way down? Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9437-9 Authors Jim Woodward, History and Philosophy of Science, 1017 Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA Barry Loewer, Department of Philosophy, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA John W. Carroll, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8103, USA Marc Lange, Department of Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB#3125—Caldwell Hall, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3125, USA Journal Metascience Online (...)
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  • A Functional Account of Causation; or, A Defense of the Legitimacy of Causal Thinking by Reference to the Only Standard That Matters—Usefulness.James Woodward - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (5):691-713.
    This essay advocates a “functional” approach to causation and causal reasoning: these are to be understood in terms of the goals and purposes of causal thinking. This approach is distinguished from accounts based on metaphysical considerations or on reconstruction of “intuitions.”.
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  • Laws and Chances in Statistical Mechanics.Eric Winsberg - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 39 (4):872-888.
    Statistical mechanics involves probabilities. At the same time, most approaches to the foundations of statistical mechanics--programs whose goal is to understand the macroscopic laws of thermal physics from the point of view of microphysics--are classical; they begin with the assumption that the underlying dynamical laws that govern the microscopic furniture of the world are deterministic. This raises some potential puzzles about the proper interpretation of these probabilities.
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  • What is Hume’s Dictum, and Why Believe It?Jessica Wilson - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80 (3):595-637.
  • The Possibility of Onion Worlds: Rebutting an Argument for Structural Universals.J. Robert G. Williams - 2007 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2):193 – 203.
    Some argue that theories of universals should incorporate structural universals, in order to allow for the metaphysical possibility of worlds of 'infinite descending complexity' ('onion worlds'). I argue that the possibility of such worlds does not establish the need for structural universals. So long as we admit the metaphysical possibility of emergent universals, there is an attractive alternative description of such cases.
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  • Supervenience-Based Formulations of Physicalism.Jessica Wilson - 2005 - Noûs 39 (3):426-459.
    The physicalist thesis that all entities are nothing over and above physical entities is often interpreted as appealing to a supervenience-based account of "nothing over and aboveness”, where, schematically, the A-entities are nothing over and above the B-entities if the A-entities supervene on the B-entities. The main approaches to filling in this schema correspond to different ways of characterizing the modal strength, the supervenience base, or the supervenience connection at issue. I consider each approach in turn, and argue that the (...)
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  • Illusions of Gunk.J. Robert G. Williams - 2006 - Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):493–513.
    Worlds where things divide forever ("gunk" worlds) are apparently conceivable. The conceivability of such scenarios has been used as an argument against "nihilist" or "near-nihilist" answers to the special composition question. I argue that the mereological nihilist has the resources to explain away the illusion that gunk is possible.
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  • Genuine Violations of Laws.Tobias Wilsch - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-16.
    Could laws of nature be violated, in the sense that some proposition is both a law and false? I argue that opponents of regularity theories of laws should accept the metaphysical possibility of such genuine violations. I begin with a clarification of this claim. The main argument is then developed in three steps. I first argue that opponents of regularity theory should endorse the modal-essence view: certain modal principles are essential to the laws of nature. Second, I argue that the (...)
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  • Eligibility and Inscrutability.J. Robert G. Williams - 2007 - Philosophical Review 116 (3):361-399.
    Inscrutability arguments threaten to reduce interpretationist metasemantic theories to absurdity. Can we find some way to block the arguments? A highly influential proposal in this regard is David Lewis’ ‘ eligibility ’ response: some theories are better than others, not because they fit the data better, but because they are framed in terms of more natural properties. The purposes of this paper are to outline the nature of the eligibility proposal, making the case that it is not ad hoc, but (...)
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  • A reductive analysis of statements about universals.Ben White - 2022 - Synthese 200 (1):1-21.
    This paper proposes an analysis of statements about universals according to which such statements assert nothing more than that the evidence we’d take to confirm them obtains, where this evidence is understood to consist solely of patterns in the behavior of particulars that cannot be explained by other regularities in the way things behave. On this analysis, to say that a universal exists is simply to say that there is such a pattern in the behavior of certain particulars, and for (...)
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  • Humeanism and Exceptions in the Fundamental Laws of Physics.Billy Wheeler - 2017 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 21 (3):317-337.
    It has been argued that the fundamental laws of physics do not face a ‘problem of provisos’ equivalent to that found in other scientific disciplines (Earman, Roberts and Smith 2002) and there is only the appearance of exceptions to physical laws if they are confused with differential equations of evolution type (Smith 2002). In this paper I argue that even if this is true, fundamental laws in physics still pose a major challenge to standard Humean approaches to lawhood, as they (...)
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  • Causation in a Virtual World: a Mechanistic Approach.Billy Wheeler - 2022 - Philosophy and Technology 35 (1):1-26.
    Objects appear to causally interact with one another in virtual worlds, such as video games, virtual reality, and training simulations. Is this causation real or is it illusory? In this paper I argue that virtual causation is as real as physical causation. I achieve this in two steps: firstly, I show how virtual causation has all the important hallmarks of relations that are causal, as opposed to merely accidental, and secondly, I show how virtual causation is genuine according to one (...)
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  • Locating IBE in the Bayesian Framework.Jonathan Weisberg - 2009 - Synthese 167 (1):125-143.
    Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) and Bayesianism are our two most prominent theories of scientific inference. Are they compatible? Van Fraassen famously argued that they are not, concluding that IBE must be wrong since Bayesianism is right. Writers since then, from both the Bayesian and explanationist camps, have usually considered van Fraassen’s argument to be misguided, and have plumped for the view that Bayesianism and IBE are actually compatible. I argue that van Fraassen’s argument is actually not so misguided, (...)
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  • Induction and Inference to the Best Explanation.Ruth Weintraub - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 166 (1):203-216.
    In this paper I adduce a new argument in support of the claim that IBE is an autonomous form of inference, based on a familiar, yet surprisingly, under-discussed, problem for Hume’s theory of induction. I then use some insights thereby gleaned to argue for the claim that induction is really IBE, and draw some normative conclusions.
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  • On the Carroll–Chen Model.Christopher Gregory Weaver - 2017 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 48 (1):97-124.
    I argue that the Carroll-Chen cosmogonic model does not provide a plausible scientific explanation of the past hypothesis (the thesis that our universe began in an extremely low-entropy state). I suggest that this counts as a welcomed result for those who adopt a Mill-Ramsey-Lewis best systems account of laws and maintain that the past hypothesis is a brute fact that is a non-dynamical law.
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  • Scientific Rationality and the Problem of Induction: Responses to Criticisms.John Watkins - 1991 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 42 (3):343-368.
    This paper considers criticisms of the author's Science and Scepticism advanced by Fred D' Agostino, Graham Oddie, Elie Zahar, Alan Musgrave, and John Worrall. The criticisms concern the following topics: the aim of science, unified theoryhood, the empirical basis, corroboration by already known evidence, the idea that scientific theories need be no more than possibly true, and the pragmatic problem of induction. Various clarifications and improvements result, and on the last topic the author significantly modifies his position.
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  • Sometimes the World is Not Enough: The Pursuit of Explanatory Laws in a Humean World.Barry Ward - 2003 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 84 (2):175–197.
    A novel motivation for a Humean projectivist construal of our concept of scientific law is provided. The analysis is partially developed and used to explain intuitions that are problematic for a Humean reductionist construal of lawhood. A possible non-Humean rejoinder is discussed and rejected. In an appendix, further intuitions that are problematic for Humean reductionists are explained projectively.
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  • Laws, Explanation, Governing, and Generation.Barry Ward - 2007 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (4):537 – 552.
    Advocates and opponents of Humean Supervenience (HS) have neglected a crucial feature of nomic explanation: laws can explain by generating descriptions of possibilities. Dretske and Armstrong have opposed HS by arguing that laws construed as Humean regularities cannot explain, but their arguments fail precisely because they neglect to consider this generating role of laws. Humeans have dismissed the intuitive violations of HS manifested by John Carroll's Mirror Worlds as erroneous, but distinguishing the laws' generating role from the non-Humean notion that (...)
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  • The Essences of Fundamental Properties.Jennifer Wang - 2019 - Metaphysics 2 (1):40-54.
    There is a puzzle concerning the essences of fundamental entities that arises from considerations about essence, on one hand, and fundamentality, on the other. The Essence-Dependence Link (EDL) says that if x figures in the essence of y, then y is dependent upon x. EDL is prima facie plausible in many cases, especially those involving derivative entities. But consider the property negative charge. A negatively charged object exhibits certain behaviors that a positively charged object does not: it moves away from (...)
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  • Forking Paths and Freedom: A Challenge to Libertarian Accounts of Free Will.Robyn Repko Waller & Russell L. Waller - 2015 - Philosophia 43 (4):1199-1212.
    The aim of this paper is to challenge libertarian accounts of free will. It is argued that there is an irreconcilable tension between the way in which philosophers motivate the incompatibilist ability to do otherwise and the way in which they formally express it. Potential incompatibilist responses in the face of this tension are canvassed, and it is argued that each response is problematic. It is not claimed that incompatibilist accounts in general are incoherent, but rather that any incompatibilist account (...)
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  • Informative Aboutness.Peter B. M. Vranas - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (2):354-364.
    Pretheoretically, ‘all believers are immortal’ is about all believers, but B is not about any unbeliever. Similarly, ‘all mortals are unbelievers’ is not about any immortal, but M is about all mortals. But B and M are logically equivalent universal generalizations, so arguably they are about exactly the same objects; by, they are about those mortals who are unbelievers, contradicting. If one responds by giving up, is there still a sense in which B treats unbelievers differently from believers? I argue (...)
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  • Nominalist Dispositional Essentialism.Lisa Vogt - 2022 - Synthese 200 (2).
    Dispositional Essentialism, as commonly conceived, consists in the claims that at least some of the fundamental properties essentially confer certain causal-nomological roles on their bearers, and that these properties give rise to the natural modalities. As such, the view is generally taken to be committed to a realist conception of properties as either universals or tropes, and to be thus incompatible with nominalism as understood in the strict sense. Pace this common assumption of the ontological import of Dispositional Essentialism, the (...)
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  • Explanatory Dispositionalism: What Anti-Humeans Should Say.Barbara Vetter - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):2051-2075.
    Inspired both by our ordinary understanding of the world and by reflection on science, anti-Humeanism is a growing trend in metaphysics. Anti-Humeans reject the Lewisian doctrine of Humean supervenience that the world is “just one little thing and then another”, and argue instead that dispositions, powers, or capacities provide connection and activity in nature. But how exactly are we to understand the shared commitment of this anti-Humean movement? I argue that this kind of anti-Humeanism, at its most general level, is (...)
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  • Does General Relativity Highlight Necessary Connections in Nature?Antonio Vassallo - 2021 - Synthese 199 (1-2):1-23.
    The dynamics of general relativity is encoded in a set of ten differential equations, the so-called Einstein field equations. It is usually believed that Einstein's equations represent a physical law describing the coupling of spacetime with material fields. However, just six of these equations actually describe the coupling mechanism: the remaining four represent a set of differential relations known as Bianchi identities. The paper discusses the physical role that the Bianchi identities play in general relativity, and investigates whether these identities (...)
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  • Why Water is Not H2O, and Other Critiques of Essentialist Ontology From the Philosophy of Chemistry.Holly VandeWall - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (5):906-919.
    Ellis argues that certain essential properties of objects in the world not only determine the nature of these objects but also how they will behave in any situation. In this paper I will critique Ellis's essentialism from the perspective of the philosophy of chemistry, arguing that our current knowledge of chemistry in fact does not lend itself to essentialist interpretations and that this seriously undercuts Ellis's project. In particular I will criticize two key distinctions Ellis draws between internal vs. external (...)
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  • Laws and Natural History in Biology.Wim J. Van Der Steen & Harmke Kamminga - 1991 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 42 (4):445-467.
  • Armstrong on Laws and Probabilities.Bas C. van Fraassen - 1987 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 65 (3):243 – 260.
    The question of David Armstrong's recent book, What Is a Law of Nature? would seem to have little point unless there really are laws of nature. However that may be, so much philosoFhical thinking has utilized this concept, that an inquiry of this sort was needed whether there are or not. The book begins with a devastating attack on so-called Regularity views of law, and then proceeds with an exposition of Armstrong's own answer to the question. I wish to raise (...)
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  • The Nomic Role Account of Carving Reality at the Joints.Peter Vallentyne - 1998 - Synthese 115 (2):171-198.
    Natural properties are those that carve reality at the joints. The notion of carving reality at the joints, however, is somewhat obscure, and is often understood in terms of making for similarity, conferring causal powers, or figuring in the laws of nature. I develop and assess an account of the third sort according to which carving reality at the joints is understood as having the right level of determinacy relative to nomic roles. The account has the attraction of involving very (...)
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  • What is a Law of Nature? A Humean Answer.Peter Urbach - 1988 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 39 (2):193-209.
  • Challenging Lewis’s Challenge to the Best System Account of Lawhood.Rafal Urbaniak & Bert Leuridan - 2018 - Synthese 195 (4):1649-1666.
    David Lewis has formulated a well-known challenge to his Best System account of lawhood: the content of any system whatever can be formulated very simply if one allows for perverse choices of primitive vocabulary. We show that the challenge is not that dangerous, and that to account for it one need not invoke natural properties or relativized versions of the Best System account. This way, we help to move towards an even better Best System account. We discuss extensions of our (...)
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  • The laws of modality.Matthew Tugby - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (8):2597-2618.
    Nomic realists have traditionally put laws to work within a theory of natural modality, in order to provide a metaphysical source for causal necessitation, counterfactuals, and dispositions. However, laws are well-suited to perform other work as well. Necessitation is a widespread phenomenon and includes cases of categorial, conceptual, grounding, mathematical and normative necessitation. A permissive theory of universals allows us to extend nomic realism into these other domains. With a particular focus on grounding necessitation, it is argued that the sorts (...)
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  • The Problem of Retention.Matthew Tugby - 2017 - Synthese 194 (6).
    A popular version of anti-Humeanism is one that views fundamental properties as being irreducibly dispositional in nature, and it is a view to which I am attracted. Proponents of this view typically object to Humean regularity theories of laws on the basis that they do not explain why our world is regular rather than chaotic from moment to moment. It is thought that, for this reason, Humeanism does not provide firm enough foundations for induction. However, in this paper I argue (...)
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  • Universals, Laws, and Governance.Matthew Tugby - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1147-1163.
    Proponents of the dispositional theory of properties typically claim that their view is not one that offers a realist, governing conception of laws. My first aim is to show that, contrary to this claim, if one commits to dispositionalism then one does not automatically give up on a robust, realist theory of laws. This is because dispositionalism can readily be developed within a Platonic framework of universals. Second, I argue that there are good reasons for realist dispositionalists to favour a (...)
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  • Nomic Necessity for Platonists.Matthew Tugby - 2013 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 2 (4):324-331.
    After identifying some existing explanations offered by nomic necessitarians for the alleged necessary connections between natural properties and their dispositional or nomic features, I discuss a less explored necessitarian strategy. This strategy is available to Platonists who hold that properties exist necessarily, as most do.
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  • Categoricalism, Dispositionalism, and the Epistemology of Properties.Matthew Tugby - 2014 - Synthese 191 (6):1-16.
    Notoriously, the dispositional view of natural properties is thought to face a number of regress problems, one of which points to an epistemological worry. In this paper, I argue that the rival categorical view is also susceptible to the same kind of regress problem. This problem can be overcome, most plausibly, with the development of a structuralist epistemology. After identifying problems faced by alternative solutions, I sketch the main features of this structuralist epistemological approach, referring to graph-theoretic modelling in the (...)
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  • Graph-Theoretic Models of Dispositional Structures.Matthew Tugby - 2013 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 27 (1):23-39.
    The focus of this article is the view about fundamental natural properties known as dispositional monism. This is a holistic view about nature, according to which all properties are essentially interrelated. The general question to be addressed concerns what kinds of features relational structures of properties should be thought to have. I use Bird's graph-theoretic framework for representing dispositional structures as a starting point, before arguing that it is inadequate in certain important respects. I then propose a more parsimonious graph-theoretic (...)
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  • Grounding Theories of Powers.Matthew Tugby - 2021 - Synthese 198 (12):11187-11216.
    Necessitarianism, as we shall use the term, is the view that natural properties and causal powers are necessarily connected in some way. In recent decades the most popular forms of necessitarianism have been the anti-Humean powers-based theories of properties, such as dispositional essentialism and the identity theory. These versions of necessitarianism have come under fire in recent years and I believe it is time for necessitarians to develop a new approach. In this paper I identify unexplored ways of positing metaphysically (...)
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  • Abduction and the Scientific Realist Case for Properties.Matthew Tugby - 2020 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 98 (1):123-145.
    Traditionally, many arguments for realism about properties rely on a priori claims. The author argues that if we make use of an abductive principle that is commonly employed by scientific realists, a new argument for property realism can be formulated which is based firmly in scientific practice. The abductive principle says that we should believe in the existence of certain theoretical entities if they figure in the best explanation for what scientists observe. The scientific argument for property realism then says (...)
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  • On Armstrong’s Radical Absolutism.Julien Tricard - 2022 - Metaphysica 23 (1):95-115.
    Within the metaphysics of quantity, the debate rages between Absolutism and Comparativism. In retrospect, Armstrong appears to be an absolutist, for he claims that magnitudes like being 1 kg in mass are intrinsic properties of particulars, in virtue of which relations like being twice as massive as hold. More importantly, his theory is an instance of what I call ‘Radical Absolutism’, for he does not merely argue that relations are grounded in magnitudes, but also tries to explain how they “flow (...)
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