Noel Swanson
University of Delaware
Candidates for fundamental physical laws rarely, if ever, employ higher than second time derivatives. Easwaran sketches an enticing story that purports to explain away this puzzling fact and thereby provides indirect evidence for a particular set of metaphysical theses used in the explanation. I object to both the scope and coherence of Easwaran's account, before going on to defend an alternative, more metaphysically deflationary explanation: in interacting Lagrangian field theories, it is either impossible or very hard to incorporate higher than second time derivatives without rendering the vacuum state unstable. The so-called Ostrogradski instability represents a powerful constraint on the construction of new field theories and supplies a novel, largely overlooked example of non-causal explanation in physics.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axz042
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The Metaphysics Within Physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
Causality and Properties.Sydney Shoemaker - 1980 - In Peter van Inwagen (ed.), Time and Cause. D. Reidel. pp. 109-35.
Review of M Aking Things Happen.Eric Hiddleston - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (4):545-547.

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