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What is a Law of Nature?

Philosophical Review 96 (3):435-441 (1987)

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  1. The Theory Debate in Psychology.José E. Burgos - 2007 - Behavior and Philosophy 35:149 - 183.
    This paper is a conceptual analysis of the theory debate in psychology, as carried out by cognitivists and radical behaviorists. The debate has focused on the necessity of theories in psychology. However, the logically primary issue is the nature of theories, or what theories are. This claim stems from the fact that cognitivists and radical behaviorists adopt disparate accounts of the nature of theories. The cognitivists' account is closely akin to the received view from logical positivism, where theories are collections (...)
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  • Humeanism and Exceptions in the Fundamental Laws of Physics.Billy Wheeler - 2015 - 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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  • A Defence of Sentiments: Emotions, Dispositions, and Character.Hichem Naar - unknown
    Contemporary emotion research typically takes the phenomenon of emotion to be exhausted by a class of mental events that are intentional, conscious, and related to certain sorts of behaviour. Moreover, other affective phenomena, such as moods, are also considered to be relatively short-term, episodic, or occurrent states of the subject undergoing them. Emotions, and other putative emotional phenomena that common-sense takes as long-lasting, non-episodic, or dispositional are things that both philosophers and scientists sometimes recognise, but that are relatively neglected in (...)
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  • The World Essence.John Bigelow - 1990 - Dialogue 29 (2):205-.
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  • Concepts, Experience and Modal Knowledge1.C. S. Jenkins - 2010 - Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1):255-279.
    forthcoming in R. Cameron, B. Hale and A. Hoffmann (ed.s), The Logic, Epistemology and Metaphysics of Modality, Oxford University Press. Presents a concept-grounding account of modal knowledge.
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  • Laws and Their Instances.Nina Emery - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (6):1535-1561.
    I present an argument for the view that laws ground their instances. I then outline two important consequences that follow if we accept the conclusion of this argument. First, the claim that laws ground their instances threatens to undermine a prominent recent attempt to make sense of the explanatory power of Humean laws by distinguishing between metaphysical and scientific explanation. And second, the claim that laws ground their instances gives rise to a novel argument against the view that grounding relations (...)
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  • What Makes Induction Rational?David Malet Armstrong - 1991 - Dialogue 30 (4):503-11.
  • The Modal Status of Laws: In Defence of a Hybrid View.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2015 - Philosophical Quarterly 65 (260):509-528.
    Three popular views regarding the modal status of the laws of nature are discussed: Humean Supervenience, nomic necessitation, and scientific/dispositional essentialism. These views are examined especially with regard to their take on the apparent modal force of laws and their ability to explain that modal force. It will be suggested that none of the three views, at least in their strongest form, can be maintained if some laws are metaphysically necessary, but others are metaphysically contingent. Some reasons for thinking that (...)
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  • Troubles with Theoretical Virtues: Resisting Theoretical Utility Arguments in Metaphysics.OtÁvio Bueno & Scott A. Shalkowski - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
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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.
  • Dynamic Humeanism.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axx006.
    Humean accounts of laws of nature fail to distinguish between dynamic laws and static initial conditions. But this distinction plays a central role in scientific theorizing and explanation. I motivate the claim that this distinction should matter for the Humean, and show that current views lack the resources to explain it. I then develop a regularity theory that captures this distinction. My view takes empirical accessibility to be one of the primary features of laws, and I identify features laws must (...)
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  • Philosophy, Drama and Literature.Rick Benitez - 2010 - In Graham Oppy & Steve Gardner (eds.), Companion to Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand. Melbourne, Australia: Monash University Press. pp. 371-372.
    Philosophy and Literature is an internationally renowned refereed journal founded by Denis Dutton at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. It is now published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Since its inception in 1976, Philosophy and Literature has been concerned with the relation between literary and philosophical studies, publishing articles on the philosophical interpretation of literature as well as the literary treatment of philosophy. Philosophy and Literature has sometimes been regarded as iconoclastic, in the sense that it repudiates academic pretensions, (...)
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  • On What Powers Cannot Do.Joel Katzav - 2005 - Dialectica 59 (3):331–345.
    Dispositionalism is the view that the world is, ultimately, just a world of objects and their irreducible dispositions, and that such dispositions are, ultimately, the sole explanatory ground for the occurrence of events. This view is motivated, partly, by arguing that it affords, while non‐necessitarian views of laws of nature do not afford, an adequate account of our intuitions about which regularities are non‐accidental. I, however, argue that dispositionalism cannot adequately account for our intuitions about which regularities are non‐accidental. Further, (...)
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  • God and Dispositional Essentialism: An Account of the Laws of Nature.Dani Adams - forthcoming - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.
    It is common to appeal to governing laws of nature in order to explain the existence of natural regularities. Classical theism, however, maintains the sovereignty thesis: everything distinct from God is created by him and is under his guidance and control. It follows from this that God must somehow be responsible for natural laws and regularities. Therefore, theists need an account of the relation between regularities, laws, and God. I examine competing accounts of laws of nature and conclude that dispositional (...)
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  • Instants and Instantaneous Velocity.James Harrington - unknown
    This paper will argue that the puzzles about instantaneous velocity, and rates of change more generally, are the result of a failure to recognize an ambiguity in the concept of an instant, and therefore of an instantaneous state. We will conclude that there are two distinct conceptions of a temporal instant: (i) instants conceived as fundamentally distinct zero-duration temporal atoms and (ii) instants conceived as the boundary of, or between,temporally extended durations. Since the concept of classical instantaneous velocity is well- (...)
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  • Some Remarks on the Metaphysical Status of Laws of Nature.W. Christiaens - 2008 - Acta Philosophica Fennica 84:99.
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  • The Demarcation Problem of Laws of Nature.Lukáš Bielik - 2010 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 17 (4):522-549.
    The paper focuses on the problem of identification of laws of nature and their demarcation from other kinds of regularities. The problem is approached from the viewpoint of several metaphysical, epistemological, logical and methodological criteria. Firstly, several dominant approaches to the problem are introduced. Secondly, the logical and semantic explicatory framework – Transparent Intensional Logic – is presented for the sake of clarification of logical forms of sentences that are supposed to express the laws of nature. Finally, a complementary strategy (...)
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  • Counterpossibles.Barak Krakauer - 2012 - Dissertation, University of Massachusetts
    Counterpossibles are counterfactuals with necessarily false antecedents. The problem of counterpossibles is easiest to state within the "nearest possible world" framework for counterfactuals: on this approach, a counterfactual is true when the consequent is true in the "nearest" possible world where the antecedent is true. Since counterpossibles have necessarily false antecedents, there is no possible world where the antecedent is true. On the approach favored by Lewis, Stalnaker, Williamson, and others, counterpossibles are all trivially true. I introduce several arguments against (...)
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  • Causation and Responsibility.Michael S. Moore - 1999 - Social Philosophy and Policy 16 (2):1.
    In various areas of Anglo-American law, legal liability turns on causation. In torts and contracts, we are each liable only for those harms we have caused by the actions that breach our legal duties. Such doctrines explicitly make causation an element of liability. In criminal law, sometimes the causal element for liability is equally explicit, as when a statute makes punishable any act that has “caused … abuse to the child….” More often, the causal element in criminal liability is more (...)
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  • Smoke and Mirrors: A Few Nice Tricks.Bryson Brown - 1999 - Dialogue 38 (1):123-.
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  • Quantity and Quality: Naturalness in Metaphysics.M. Eddon - 2009 - Dissertation, Rutgers University
    Ever since David Lewis argued for the indispensibility of natural properties, they have become a staple of mainstream metaphysics. This dissertation is a critical examination of natural properties. What roles can natural properties play in metaphysics, and what structure do natural properties have? In the first half of the dissertation, I argue that natural properties cannot do all the work they are advertised to do. In the second half of the dissertation, I look at questions relating to the structure of (...)
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  • Real Acquaintance and Physicalism.Philip Goff - forthcoming - In Paul Coates & Sam Coleman (eds.), Phenomenal Qualities: Sense, Perception and Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
  • A Regularity Theoretic Approach to Actual Causation.Michael Baumgartner - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (1):85-109.
    The majority of the currently flourishing theories of actual causation are located in a broadly counterfactual framework that draws on structural equations. In order to account for cases of symmetric overdeterminiation and preemption, these theories resort to rather intricate analytical tools, most of all, to what Hitchcock has labeled explicitly nonforetracking counterfactuals. This paper introduces a regularity theoretic approach to actual causation that only employs material conditionals, standard Boolean minimization procedures, and a stability condition that regulates the behavior of causal (...)
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  • Strawson on 'If' and ⊃.Gunnar Björnsson - 2008 - South African Journal of Philosophy 27 (3):24-35.
    This paper is concerned with Sir Peter Strawson’s critical discussion of Paul Grice’s defence of the material implication analysis of conditionals. It argues that although Strawson’s own ‘consequentialist’ suggestion concerning the meaning of conditionals cannot be correct, a related and radically contextualist account is able to both account for the phenomena that motivated Strawson’s consequentialism, and to undermine the material implication analysis by providing a simpler account of the processes that we go through when interpreting conditionals.
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  • Symposium on Explanations and Social Ontology 2: Explanatory Ecumenism and Economics Imperialism.Uskali Mäki - 2002 - Economics and Philosophy 18 (2):235-257.
    In a series of insightful publications, Philip Pettit and Frank Jackson have argued for an explanatory ecumenism that is designed to justify a variety of types of social scientific explanation of different , including structural and rational choice explanations. Their arguments are put in terms of different kinds of explanatory information; the distinction between causal efficacy, causal relevance and explanatory relevance within their program model of explanation; and virtual reality and resilience explanation. The arguments are here assessed from the point (...)
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  • Verdad y leyes de la naturaleza en la metodología de los programas de investigación científica.Bruno Borge - 2017 - Signos Filosóficos 19 (37):146-169.
    Resumen En la filosofía de Lakatos existe una tensión entre falibilismo y optimismo epistemológico. En el presente artículo propongo la reconstrucción de dos elementos clave para resolver positivamente esa tensión: una noción de verdad empírica, que neutralice el convencionalismo, y una noción de verdad parcial, que dé cuenta de la creciente verosimilitud de los programas de investigación. Para esto último, reviso un aspecto de la obra de Lakatos frecuentemente ignorado por los críticos: su posición en el debate acerca de las (...)
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  • The Probability of the Possible.Ron Wilburn - 2014 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 10 (1):44-55.
    In “Why is There Anything at All?” Peter van Inwagen argues that even though it was never necessary that concrete beings existed, it was always maximally probable – just short of necessity – that they did . I argue that van Inwagen’s argument fails, albeit for an interesting reason which has remained so far unnoticed in the literature: there is a critical ten- sion between two of its premises, both essential to its soundness, concerning the nature of comprehensively specified possible (...)
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  • Chance, Determinism, and Unsettledness.Antony Eagle - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 176 (3):781-802.
    A previously unrecognised argument against deterministic chance is introduced. The argument rests on the twin ideas that determined outcomes are settled, while chancy outcomes are unsettled, thus making cases of determined but chancy outcomes impossible. Closer attention to tacit assumptions about settledness makes available some principled lines of resistance to the argument for compatibilists about chance and determinism. Yet the costs of maintaining compatibilism may be higher with respect to this argument than with respect to existing incompatibilist arguments.
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  • Making Best Systems Best for Us.Siegfried Jaag & Christian Loew - forthcoming - Synthese:1-26.
    Humean reductionism about laws of nature appears to leave a central aspect of scientific practice unmotivated: If the world’s fundamental structure is exhausted by the actual distribution of non-modal properties and the laws of nature are merely efficient summaries of this distribution, then why does science posit laws that cover a wide range of non-actual circumstances? In this paper, we develop a new version of the Humean best systems account of laws based on the idea that laws need to organize (...)
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  • A Better Best System Account of Lawhood.Jonathan Cohen & Craig Callender - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 145 (1):1 - 34.
    Perhaps the most significant contemporary theory of lawhood is the Best System (/MRL) view on which laws are true generalizations that best systematize knowledge. Our question in this paper will be how best to formulate a theory of this kind. We’ll argue that an acceptable MRL should (i) avoid inter-system comparisons of simplicity, strength, and balance, (ii) make lawhood epistemically accessible, and (iii) allow for laws in the special sciences. Attention to these problems will bring into focus a useful menu (...)
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  • Realization and Causal Powers.Umut Baysan - 2014 - Dissertation, University of Glasgow
    In this thesis, I argue that physicalism should be understood to be the view that mental properties are realized by physical properties. In doing this, I explore what the realization relation might be. Since realization is the relation that should help us formulate physicalism, I suggest that the theoretical role of realization consists in explaining some of the things that physicalists wish to explain. These are: How are mental properties metaphysically necessitated by physical properties? How are mental properties causally efficacious? (...)
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  • Laws and Counterfactuals: Defusing an Argument Against the Humean View of Laws.Kaave Lajevardi - 2011 - Dialogue 50 (4):751-758.
    ABSTRACT: Appealing to the failure of counterfactual support is a standard device in refuting a Humean view on laws of nature: some true generalisations do not support relevant counterfactuals; therefore not every true general fact is a law of nature—so goes the refutation. I will argue that this strategy does not work, for our understanding of the truth-value of any counterfactual is grounded in our understanding of the lawhood of some statements related to it.
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  • Scientific Practice and Necessary Connections.Andreas Hüttemann - 2014 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 29 (1):29-39.
    There have been various attempts to argue from the _success_ of certain aspects of scientific practice to the existence of necessary connections between distinct events. Many of these arguments are based on an inference to the best explanation. I will start by reviewing some of these IBE arguments as well as their recent critique by Helen Beebee. Beebee’s critique is convincing with regard to the particular arguments she criticises. I will, however, present other aspects of scientific practice that need to (...)
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  • A Theory of Presentism.Craig Bourne - 2006 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (1):1-23.
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  • Interfering with Nomological Necessity.Markus Schrenk - 2011 - Philosophical Quarterly 61 (244):577-597.
    Since causal processes can be prevented and interfered with, law-governed causation is a challenge for necessitarian theories of laws of nature. To show that there is a problematic friction between necessity and interference, I focus on David Armstrong's theory; with one proviso, his lawmaker, nomological necessity, is supposed to be instantiated as the causation of the law's second relatum whenever its first relatum is instantiated. His proviso is supposed to handle interference cases, but fails to do so. In order to (...)
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  • Better Best Systems – Too Good To Be True.Marius Backmann & Alexander Reutlinger - 2014 - Dialectica 68 (3):375-390.
    Craig Callender, Jonathan Cohen and Markus Schrenk have recently argued for an amended version of the best system account of laws – the better best system account (BBSA). This account of lawhood is supposed to account for laws in the special sciences, among other desiderata. Unlike David Lewis's original best system account of laws, the BBSA does not rely on a privileged class of natural predicates, in terms of which the best system is formulated. According to the BBSA, a contingently (...)
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  • Humean Supervenience in the Light of Contemporary Science.Vassilios Karakostas - 2009 - Metaphysica 10 (1):1-26.
    It is shown that Lewis’ ontological doctrine of Humean supervenience incorporates at its foundation the so-called separability principle of classical physics. In view of the systematic violation of the latter within quantum mechanics, the claim that contemporary physical science may posit non-supervenient relations beyond the spatiotemporal ones is reinforced on a foundational basis concerning constraints on the state representation of physical systems. Depending on the mode of assignment of states to quantum systems — unit state vectors versus statistical density operators (...)
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  • Causal Realism.Michael Esfeld - unknown
    According to causal realism, causation is a fundamental feature of the world, consisting in the fact that the properties that there are in the world, including notably the fundamental physical ones, are dispositions or powers to produce certain effects. The paper presents arguments for this view from the metaphysics of properties and the philosophy of physics, pointing out how this view leads to a coherent ontology for both physics as well as biology and the special sciences in general.
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  • Finite Frequentism in a Big World.Nick Tosh - 2016 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67 (1):169-213.
    The view that chances are relative frequencies of occurrence within actual, finite reference classes has long been written off. I argue that it ought to be reconsidered. Focusing on non-deterministic chance, I defend a version of finite frequentism in which reference classmates are required to have qualitatively identical pasts. While my analysis can evade or resist several standard objections, it has a counterintuitive consequence: non-trivial chances entail the existence of past light cones that are perfect intrinsic duplicates. In mitigation, I (...)
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  • A Structure for Mental Causation.Anthony Dardis - manuscript
    This paper suggests a structure that makes room for a class of solutions to the mental causation problem.
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  • A Formal Analysis of the Best System Account of Lawhood.Giovanni Cinà - 2014 - Rivista Italiana di Filosofia Analitica Junior 5 (1):59-73.
    In this work I attempt a reformulation of Lewis’ Best System Account, explicitating the underlying formal conception of scientific theories and trying to define the concepts of simplicity, strength and balance. This essay is divided in three sections. In the first one I introduce the Best System Account of natural laws and formulate the need for its improvement. In the second section I outline a formal framework where the notions of deductive system and scientific theory can be defined precisely. In (...)
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  • Can Science Investigate the Supernatural? An Investigation Into the Relationship Between Science, the Supernatural and Religion.Jonathan Winthrop - unknown
    Throughout the last century there has been much discussion over what it is that makes an activity or a theory 'scientific'. In the philosophy of science, conversation has focused on differentiating legitimate science from so-called 'pseudoscience'. In the broader cultural sphere this topic has received attention in multiple legal debates regarding the status of creationism, where it has been generally agreed that the 'supernatural' nature of the claims involved renders them unscientific. In this thesis I focus upon the latter of (...)
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  • The Case for Widespread Simultaneous Causation.Cei Maslen - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (270):123-137.
    In this paper, I examine recent arguments for the widespread existence of simultaneous causation from Huemer & Kovitz and Mumford & Anjum, and conclude that they are mistaken. I argue that these arguments overlook two pictures of causation which are commonly assumed, which I call the Standard Modern Picture and the Contiguous Extended Picture.
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  • Causation: An Alternative.Wolfgang Spohn - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (1):93-119.
    The paper builds on the basically Humean idea that A is a cause of B iff A and B both occur, A precedes B, and A raises the metaphysical or epistemic status of B given the obtaining circumstances. It argues that in pursuit of a theory of deterministic causation this ‘status raising’ is best explicated not in regularity or counterfactual terms, but in terms of ranking functions. On this basis, it constructs a rigorous theory of deterministic causation that successfully deals (...)
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  • Inderterminacy in Causation.Eric Swanson - 2017 - Philosophical Quarterly 67 (268):606-624.
    I argue that there are some causal relata for which it is indeterminate whether one caused the other. Positing indeterminacy in causation helps us defend contested principles in the logic of causation and makes possible new ways of thinking about the theoretical impact of symmetric causal overdetermination. I close by discussing amendments of current theories of causation that would help explain causal indeterminacy.
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  • Does IBE Require a "Model" of Explanation?Frank Cabrera - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axy010.
    In this paper, I consider an important challenge to the popular theory of scientific inference commonly known as “Inference to the Best Explanation” (IBE), one which has received scant attention. The problem is that there exists a wide array of rival models of explanation, thus leaving IBE objectionably indeterminate. First, I briefly introduce IBE. Then, I motivate the problem and offer three potential solutions, the most plausible of which is to adopt a kind of pluralism about the rival models of (...)
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  • David Lewis, Donald C. Williams, and the History of Metaphysics in the Twentieth Century.A. R. J. Fisher - 2015 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (1):3--22.
    The revival of analytic metaphysics in the latter half of the twentieth century is typically understood as a consequence of the critiques of logical positivism, Quine’s naturalization of ontology, Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, clarifications of modal notions in logic, and the theoretical exploitation of possible worlds. However, this explanation overlooks the work of metaphysicians at the height of positivism and linguisticism that affected metaphysics of the late twentieth century. Donald C. Williams is one such philosopher. In this paper I explain (...)
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  • Armstrong on Quantities and Resemblance.Maya Eddon - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 136 (3):385-404.
    Resemblances obtain not only between objects but between properties. Resemblances of the latter sort - in particular resemblances between quantitative properties - prove to be the downfall of a well-known theory of universals, namely the one presented by David Armstrong. This paper examines Armstrong's efforts to account for such resemblances within the framework of his theory and also explores several extensions of that theory. All of them fail.
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  • Humean Laws in an unHumean World.Samuel Kimpton-nye - 2017 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 3 (2):129-147.
    I argue that an unHumean ontology of irreducibly dispositional properties might be fruitfully combined with what has typically been thought of as a Humean account of laws, namely, the best-system account, made popular by David Lewis (e.g., 1983, 1986, 1994). In this paper I provide the details of what I argue is the most defensible account of Humean laws in an unHumean world. This package of views has the benefits of upholding scientific realism while doing without any suspect metaphysical entities (...)
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  • Source and Channel in the Informational Theory of Mental Content.Max Kistler - 2000 - Facta Philosophica 2 (2):213-36.
    With the aim of giving a naturalistic foundation to the notion of mental representation, Fred Dretske (1981;1988) has put forward and developed the idea that the relation between a representation and its intentional content is grounded on an informational relation. In this explanatory model, mental representations are conceived of as states of organisms which a learning process has selected to play a functional role: a necessary condition for fulfilling this role is that the organism or some proper part of it (...)
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