The package deal account of laws and properties

Synthese 199 (1-2):1065-1089 (2020)
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This paper develops an account of the metaphysics of fundamental laws I call “the Package Deal Account ” that is a descendent of Lewis’ BSA but differs from it in a number of significant ways. It also rejects some elements of the metaphysics in which Lewis develops his BSA. First, Lewis proposed a metaphysical thesis about fundamental properties he calls “Humean Supervenience” according to which all fundamental properties are instantiated by points or point sized individuals and the only fundamental relations are geometrical spatial and temporal relations between these. While the BSA does not require HS Lewis seems to hope that it is true. In contrast, the PDA is not committed to HS or even to the fundamental arena in which fundamental properties are instantiated possessing geometrical structure and thus is able to accommodate relations and structures found in contemporary physics that apparently conflict with HS. Second, although Lewis’ BSA doesn’t require HS his Humeanism does require that fundamental properties are categorical. In contrast, the PDA allows for the possibility that fundamental properties are individuated in terms of laws and so are not categorical. Third, the PDA expands and develops the criteria for what counts in favor of a candidate system with more attention to the criteria employed by physicists in evaluating proposed theories. Fourth and most importantly, unlike Lewis’ BSA, the PDA does not presuppose metaphysically primitive elite properties/quantities that Lewis calls “perfectly natural” properties/quantities or presuppose a metaphysically preferred language whose terms denote such properties/quantities. It replaces Lewis’ account with an account on which natural properties are not metaphysically prior to the laws but are elements of a package that includes a fundamental arena that plays the role of space-time as well as fundamental laws and properties. By doing so it responds to some epistemological and metaphysical issues that have been raised regarding natural properties and their role in the BSA. In sum, the PDA goes further in explicating the notion of laws in terms of the aims and practices of science especially fundamental physics rather than in terms of prior metaphysics. I begin by reviewing Lewis’ account of perfectly natural properties and his Humean BSA of laws.



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Barry Loewer
Rutgers University - New Brunswick

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References found in this work

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.
Philosophical papers.David Kellogg Lewis - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Monism: The Priority of the Whole.Jonathan Schaffer - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (1):31-76.
Phenomenal Structuralism.David J. Chalmers - 2012 - In David John Chalmers (ed.), Constructing the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 412-422.

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