Making best systems best for us

Synthese 197 (6):2525-2550 (2018)
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Abstract

Humean reductionism about laws of nature appears to leave a central aspect of scientific practice unmotivated: If the world’s fundamental structure is exhausted by the actual distribution of non-modal properties and the laws of nature are merely efficient summaries of this distribution, then why does science posit laws that cover a wide range of non-actual circumstances? In this paper, we develop a new version of the Humean best systems account of laws based on the idea that laws need to organize information in a way that maximizes their cognitive usefulness for creature like us. We argue that this account motivates scientific practice because the laws’ applicability to non-actual circumstances falls right out of their cognitive usefulness.

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Author Profiles

Christian Loew
Umeå University
Siegfried Jaag
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

Citations of this work

Humeanism about laws of nature.Harjit Bhogal - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (8):1-10.
Non‐Humean theories of natural necessity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (5):e12662.
Breaking the explanatory circle.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (2):533-557.

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References found in this work

On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The metaphysics within physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
New work for a theory of universals.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.

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