Humean laws and circular explanation

Philosophical Studies 172 (2):433-443 (2015)

Authors
Peter van Elswyk
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Abstract
Humeans are often accused of accounting for natural laws in such a way that the fundamental entities that are supposed to explain the laws circle back and explain themselves. Loewer (2012) contends this is only the appearance of circularity. When it comes to the laws of nature, the Humean posits two kinds of explanation: metaphysical and scientific. The circle is then cut because the kind of explanation the laws provide for the fundamental entities is distinct from the kind of explanation the entities provide for the laws. Lange (2013) has replied that Loewer’s defense is a distinction without a difference. As Lange sees it, Humeanism still produces a circular explanation because scientific explanations are transmitted across metaphysical explanations. We disagree that metaphysical explanation is such a ready conduit of scientific explanation. In what follows, we clear Humeanism of all charges of circularity by exploring how different kinds of explanation can and cannot interact. Our defense of Humeanism begins by presenting the circularity objection and detailing how it relies on an implausible principle about the transitivity of explanation. Then, we turn to Lange’s (2013) transitivity principle for explanation to argue that it fairs no better. With objections neutral to the debate between Humeanism and anti-Humeanism, we will show that his principle is not able to make the circularity objection sound.
Keywords Humeanism  laws  explanation
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s)
DOI 10.1007/s11098-014-0310-3
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 48,857
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Nature’s Metaphysics.Alexander Bird - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
Laws and Symmetry.Bas C. van Fraassen - 1989 - Oxford University Press.
The Metaphysics Within Physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - Oxford University Press.

View all 21 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Non‐Humean Theories of Natural Necessity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (5):1-1.
Platonic Laws of Nature.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (3):365-381.
Laws of Nature, Explanation, and Semantic Circularity.Erica Shumener - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3):787-815.
Humean Laws and Explanation.Dan Marshall - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (12):3145-3165.

View all 19 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Humean Scientific Explanation.Elizabeth Miller - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1311-1332.
Grounding, Scientific Explanation, and Humean Laws.Marc Lange - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 164 (1):255-261.
Laws, Explanation, Governing, and Generation.Barry Ward - 2007 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (4):537 – 552.
Can Primitive Laws Explain?Tyler Hildebrand - 2013 - Philosophers' Imprint 13:1-15.
The Limits of Explanation.Richard Swinburne - 1990 - Philosophy 27 (Supplement):177 - 193.
Mechanisms, Laws, and Regularities.Holly Andersen - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (2):325-331.
Can Bare Dispositions Explain Categorical Regularities?Tyler Hildebrand - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 167 (3):569-584.
Is the Humean Defeated by Induction?Benjamin T. H. Smart - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (2):319-332.
A Natural Explanation of the Existence and Laws of Our Universe.Quentin Smith - 1990 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):22 – 43.
Arguments From Design.Richard Swinburne - 2002 - Think 1 (1):49 - 54.
Theory in History.Leon J. Goldstein - 1967 - Philosophy of Science 34 (1):23-40.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2014-03-25

Total views
181 ( #46,049 of 2,309,424 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
15 ( #47,658 of 2,309,424 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature