Derivative Properties in Fundamental Laws


Authors
Jonathan Schaffer
Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Michael Hicks
University of Cologne
Abstract
Orthodoxy has it that only metaphysically elite properties can be invoked in scientifically elite laws. We argue that this claim does not fit scientific practice. An examination of candidate scientifically elite laws like Newton’s F = ma reveals properties invoked that are irreversibly defined and thus metaphysically non-elite by the lights of the surrounding theory: Newtonian acceleration is irreversibly defined as the second derivative of position, and Newtonian resultant force is irreversibly defined as the sum of the component forces. We think that scientists are happy to invoke metaphysically non-elite properties in scientifically elite laws for reasons of convenience, such as to simplify the equations and to make them more modular. On this basis, we draw a deflationary moral about laws themselves, as being merely convenient summaries. 1 Introduction2 Orthodoxy2.1 Orthodoxy stated2.2 Orthodoxy explained2.3 A worrisome commitment: Term objectivism3 The Loose View3.1 The argument from practice3.2 Finding the scientifically elite equations3.3 Diagnosing the metaphysically non-elite properties3.4 Situating our challenge4 Newtonian Mechanics4.1 Newtonian acceleration4.2 Newtonian resultant force4.3 A metaphysical discovery?5 Objections5.1 Metaphysically elite after all?5.2 Scientifically non-elite after all?5.3 But our world is not Newtonian!6 Consequences6.1 Consequences for the motivations for link6.2 Consequences for metaphysically elite properties6.3 Consequences for lawhood.
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Reprint years 2015, 2017
DOI 10.1093/bjps/axv039
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Nature’s Metaphysics.Alexander Bird - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
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Citations of this work BETA

Dynamic Humeanism.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axx006.
Dynamic Humeanism.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (4):983-1007.
A New Approach to the Relational-Substantival Debate.Jill North - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.

View all 7 citations / Add more citations

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