Toward a Best Predictive System Account of Laws of Nature

Chris Dorst
Washington University in St. Louis
This paper argues for a revised best system account of laws of nature. David Lewis's original BSA has two main elements. On the one hand, there is the Humean base, which is the totality of particular matters of fact that obtain in the history of the universe. On the other hand, there is what I call the ‘nomic formula’, which is a particular operation that gets applied to the Humean base in order to output the laws of nature. My revised account focuses on this latter element of the view. Lewis conceives of the nomic formula as a balance of simplicity and strength, but I argue that this is a mistake. Instead, I motivate and develop a different proposal for the standards that figure into the nomic formula, and I suggest a rationale for why these should be the correct standards. Specifically, I argue that the nomic formula should be conceived as a collection of desiderata designed to generate principles that are predictively useful to creatures like us. The resulting view –which I call the ‘best predictive system’ account of laws–is thus able to explain why scientists are interested in discovering the laws, and it also gives rise to laws with the sorts of features that we find in actual scientific practice.
Keywords Laws of Nature  Humeanism  Best Systems Account
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axy016
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Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Blackwell.
Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1955 - Harvard University Press.
The Metaphysics Within Physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
New Work for a Theory of Universals.David Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
Philosophical Papers Vol. II.Lewis David - 1986 - Oxford University Press.

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