On the Very Idea of Distant Correlations

Foundations of Physics:1-25 (forthcoming)

Contemporary debate over laws of nature centers around Humean supervenience, the thesis that everything supervenes on the distribution of non-nomic facts. The key ingredient of this thesis is the idea that nomic-like concepts—law, chance, causation, etc.—are expressible in terms of the regularities of non-nomic facts. Inherent to this idea is the tacit conviction that regularities, “constant conjunctions” of non-nomic facts do supervene on the distribution of non-nomic facts. This paper raises a challenge for this conviction. It will be pointed out that the notion of regularity, understood as statistical correlation, has a necessary conceptual component not clearly identified before—I shall call this the “conjunctive relation” of the correlated events. On the other hand, it will be argued that there exists no unambiguous, non-circular way in which this relation could be determined. In this regard, the notion of correlation is similar to that of distant simultaneity where the necessary conceptual component is the one-way speed of light, whose value doesn’t seem to be determined by matters of facts.
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DOI 10.1007/s10701-020-00332-w
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