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Nomothetic Explanation and Humeanism about Laws of Nature

In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, volume 12. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 164–202 (2020)

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  1. Lawful Humean explanations are not circular.Callum Duguid - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):6039-6059.
    A long-standing charge of circularity against regularity accounts of laws has recently seen a surge of renewed interest. The difficulty is that we appeal to laws to explain their worldly instances, but if these laws are descriptions of regularities in the instances then they are explained by those very instances. By the transitivity of explanation, we reach an absurd conclusion: instances of the laws explain themselves. While drawing a distinction between metaphysical and scientific explanations merely modifies the challenge rather than (...)
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  • Humeans are out of this world.Erica Shumener - 2021 - Synthese 198 (6):5897-5916.
    I defend the following argument in this paper. Premise 1: Laws of nature are intrinsic to the universe. Premise 2: Humeanism maintains that laws of nature are extrinsic to the universe. Conclusion: Humeanism is false. This argument is inspired by John Hawthorne’s (2004) argument in “Why Humeans are out of their Minds”. My argument differs from his; Hawthorne focuses on Humean views of causation and how they interact with judgments about consciousness. He thinks Humeans are forced to treat certain mental (...)
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  • 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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  • Humean Laws and (Nested) Counterfactuals.Christian Loew & Siegfried Jaag - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 70 (278):93-113.
    Humean reductionism about laws of nature is the view that the laws reduce to the total distribution of non-modal or categorical properties in spacetime. A worry about Humean reductionism is that it cannot motivate the characteristic modal resilience of laws under counterfactual suppositions and that it thus generates wrong verdicts about certain nested counterfactuals. In this paper, we defend Humean reductionism by motivating an account of the modal resilience of Humean laws that gets nested counterfactuals right.
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  • Lawful Persistence.David Builes & Trevor Teitel - forthcoming - Philosophical Perspectives.
    The central aim of this paper is to use a particular view about how the laws of nature govern the evolution of our universe in order to develop and evaluate the two main competing options in the metaphysics of persistence, namely endurantism and perdurantism. We begin by motivating the view that our laws of nature dictate not only qualitative facts about the future, but also which objects will instantiate which qualitative properties. We then show that both traditional doctrines in the (...)
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  • The Power to Govern.Erica Shumener - forthcoming - Philosophical Perspectives.
    I provide a new account of what it is for the laws of nature to govern the evolution of events. I locate the source of governance in the content of law propositions. As such, I do not appeal to primitive notions of ground, essence, or production to characterize governance. After introducing the account, I use it to outline previously unrecognized varieties of governance. I also specify that laws must govern to have two theoretical virtues: explanatory power as well as a (...)
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  • Are we free to make the laws?Christian Loew & Andreas Hüttemann - 2022 - Synthese 200 (1):1-16.
    Humeans about laws maintain that laws of nature are nothing over and above the complete distribution of non-modal, categorical properties in spacetime. ‘Humean compatibilists’ argue that if Humeanism about laws is true, then agents in a deterministic world can do otherwise than they are lawfully determined to do because of the distinctive nature of Humean laws. More specifically, they reject a central premise of the Consequence argument by maintaining that deterministic laws of nature are ‘up to us’. In this paper, (...)
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  • The oldest solution to the circularity problem for Humeanism about the laws of nature.David Mark Kovacs - 2020 - Synthese 198 (9):1-21.
    According to Humeanism about the laws, the laws of nature are nothing over and above certain kinds of regularities about particular facts. Humeanism has often been accused of circularity: according to scientific practice laws often explain their instances, but on the Humean view they also reduce to the mosaic, which includes those instances. In this paper I formulate the circularity problem in a way that avoids a number of controversial assumptions routinely taken for granted in the literature, and against which (...)
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  • An explanatory idealist theory of grounding.David Mark Kovacs - 2022 - Noûs 56 (3):530-553.
    How is grounding related to metaphysical explanation? The standard view is that the former somehow “backs”, “undergirds” or “underlies” the latter. This view fits into a general picture of explanation, according to which explanations in general hold in virtue of a certain elite group of “explanatory relations” or “determinative relations” that back them. This paper turns the standard view on its head: grounding doesn't “back” metaphysical explanation but is in an important sense downstream from it. I call this view “grounding (...)
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  • Non‐Humean theories of natural necessity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (5):1-1.
    Non‐Humean theories of natural necessity invoke modally‐laden primitives to explain why nature exhibits lawlike regularities. However, they vary in the primitives they posit and in their subsequent accounts of laws of nature and related phenomena (including natural properties, natural kinds, causation, counterfactuals, and the like). This article provides a taxonomy of non‐Humean theories, discusses influential arguments for and against them, and describes some ways in which differences in goals and methods can motivate different versions of non‐Humeanism (and, for that matter, (...)
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  • Breaking the explanatory circle.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (2):533-557.
    Humeans are often accused of positing laws which fail to explain or are involved in explanatory circularity. Here, I will argue that these arguments are confused, but not because of anything to do with Humeanism: rather, they rest on false assumptions about causal explanation. I’ll show how these arguments can be neatly sidestepped if one takes on two plausible commitments which are motivated independently of Humeanism: first, that laws don’t directly feature in scientific explanation and second, the view that explanation (...)
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  • Why do the Laws Support Counterfactuals?Chris Dorst - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (2):545-566.
    This paper aims to explain why the laws of nature are held fixed in counterfactual reasoning. I begin by highlighting three salient features of counterfactual reasoning: it is conservative, nomically guided, and it uses hindsight. I then present a rationale for our engagement in counterfactual reasoning that aims to make sense of these features. In particular, I argue that counterfactual reasoning helps us evaluate the evidential relations between unanticipated pieces of evidence and various hypotheses of interest about the history of (...)
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  • Why do the Laws Support Counterfactuals?Chris Dorst - 2020 - Erkenntnis 87 (2):545-566.
    This paper aims to explain why the laws of nature are held fixed in counterfactual reasoning. I begin by highlighting three salient features of counterfactual reasoning: it is conservative, nomically guided, and it uses hindsight. I then present a rationale for our engagement in counterfactual reasoning that aims to make sense of these features. In particular, I argue that counterfactual reasoning helps us evaluate the evidential relations between unanticipated pieces of evidence and various hypotheses of interest about the history of (...)
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  • On Unexplained (Modal) Patterns.Harjit Bhogal - 2022 - Erkenntnis:1-18.
    Some patterns call out for explanation, in the sense that we have a pro tanto reason to reject theories that do not give them an appropriate explanation. I argue that certain modal patterns call out for explanation in this way—and this provides a reason to reject certain theories of modality that fail to explain such patterns. However, I also consider a response to this argument, which claims that the modal patterns do not need explanation. This response might be viable but (...)
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  • Humeanism about laws of nature.Harjit Bhogal - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (8):1-10.
    Humeanism about laws of nature is, roughly, the view that the laws of nature are just patterns, or ways of describing patterns, in the mosaic of events. In this paper I survey some of the (many!) objections that have been raised to Humeanism, considering how the Humean might respond. And I consider how we might make a positive case for Humeanism. The common thread running through all this is that the viability of the Humean view relies on the Humean having (...)
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  • Generalizing the Problem of Humean Undermining.Heather Demarest & Elizabeth Miller - forthcoming - In Christian Loew, Siegfried Jaag & Michael Townsen Hicks (eds.), Humean Laws for Human Agents. Oxford: Oxford UP.
    For Humeans, many facts—even ones intuitively “about” particular, localized macroscopic parts of the world—turn out to depend on surprisingly global fundamental bases. We investigate some counterintuitive consequences of this picture. Many counterfactuals whose antecedents describe intuitively localized, non-actual states of affairs nevertheless end up involving wide-ranging implications for the global, embedding Humean mosaic. The case of self-undermining chances is a familiar example of this. We examine that example in detail and argue that popular existing strategies such as “holding the laws (...)
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  • An Empirical Argument for Presentism.David Builes & Michele Odisseas Impagnatiello - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.
    According to orthodoxy, our best physical theories strongly support Eternalism over Presentism. Our goal is to argue against this consensus, by arguing that a certain overlooked aspect of our best physical theories strongly supports Presentism over Eternalism.
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  • Humean Laws: Stability, Undermining, and Context.Antony Eagle - manuscript