Ontic Structural Realism and Modality

In Elaine Landry & Dean Rickles (eds.), Structural Realism: Structure, Object, and Causality. Springer (2012)
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Abstract

There is good reason to believe that scientific realism requires a commitment to the objective modal structure of the physical world. Causality, equilibrium, laws of nature, and probability all feature prominently in scientific theory and explanation, and each one is a modal notion. If we are committed to the content of our best scientific theories, we must accept the modal nature of the physical world. But what does the scientific realist’s commitment to physical modality require? We consider whether scientific realism is compatible with Humeanism about the laws of nature, and we conclude that it is not. We specifically identify three major problems for the best-systems account of lawhood: its central concept of strength cannot be formulated non-circularly, it cannot offer a satisfactory account of the laws of the special sciences, and it can offer no explanation of the success of inductive inference. In addition, Humeanism fails to be naturalistically motivated. For these reasons, we conclude that the scientific realist must embrace natural necessity.

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Author Profiles

James Ladyman
University of Bristol
Nora Berenstain
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Citations of this work

Structural Realism.James Ladyman - 2014 - In Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
The World in the Data.James A. C. Ladyman & Don A. Ross - 2013 - In Don Ross, James Ladyman & Harold Kincaid (eds.), Scientific Metaphysics. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 108-150.
Laws of Nature as Constraints.Emily Adlam - 2022 - Foundations of Physics 52 (1):1-41.

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References found in this work

Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement.Nancy Cartwright - 1989 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
The Metaphysics Within Physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
Humean Supervenience Debugged.David Lewis - 1994 - Mind 103 (412):473--490.

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