If the laws of nature are as the Humean believes, it is an unexplained cosmic coincidence that the actual Humean mosaic is as extremely regular as it is. This is a strong and well-known objection to the Humean account of laws. Yet, as reasonable as this objection may seem, it is nowadays sometimes dismissed. The reason: its unjustified implicit assignment of equiprobability to each possible Humean mosaic; that is, its assumption of the principle of indifference, which has been attacked on (...) many grounds ever since it was first proposed. In place of equiprobability, recent formal models represent the doxastic state of total ignorance as suspension of judgment. In this paper I revisit the cosmic coincidence objection to Humean laws by assessing which doxastic state we should endorse. By focusing on specific features of our scenario I conclude that suspending judgment results in an unnecessarily weak doxastic state. First, I point out that recent literature in epistemology has provided independent justifications of the principle of indifference. Second, given that the argument is framed within a Humean metaphysics, it turns out that we are warranted to appeal to these justifications and assign a uniform and additive credence distribution among Humean mosaics. This leads us to conclude that, contrary to widespread opinion, we should not dismiss the cosmic coincidence objection to the Humean account of laws. (shrink)
Can stable regularities be explained without appealing to governing laws or any other modal notion? In this paper, I consider what I will call a ‘Humean system’—a generic dynamical system without guiding laws—and assess whether it could display stable regularities. First, I present what can be interpreted as an account of the rise of stable regularities, following from Strevens , which has been applied to explain the patterns of complex systems (such as those from meteorology and statistical mechanics). Second, since (...) this account presupposes that the underlying dynamics displays deterministic chaos, I assess whether it can be adapted to cases where the underlying dynamics is not chaotic but truly random—that is, cases where there is no dynamics guiding the time evolution of the system. If this is so, the resulting stable, apparently non-accidental regularities are the fruit of what can be called statistical necessity rather than of a primitive physical necessity. (shrink)
I summarize, in this informal interview, the main approaches to the ‘Past Hypothesis’, the postulation of a low-entropy initial state of the universe. I’ve chosen this as an open problem in the philosophical foundations of physics. I hope that this brief overview helps readers in gaining perspective and in appreciating the diverse range of approaches in this fascinating unresolved debate.
This doctoral dissertation investigates the notion of physical necessity. Specifically, it studies whether it is possible to account for non-accidental regularities without the standard assumption of a pre-existent set of governing laws. Thus, it takes side with the so called deflationist accounts of laws of nature, like the humean or the antirealist. The specific aim is to complement such accounts by providing a missing explanation of the appearance of physical necessity. In order to provide an explanation, I recur to fields (...) that have not been appealed to so far in discussions about the metaphysics of laws. Namely, I recur to complex systems’ theory, and to the foundations of statistical mechanics. The explanation proposed is inspired by how complex systems’ theory has elucidated the way patterns emerge, and by the probabilistic explanations of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. More specifically, this thesis studies how some constraints that make no direct reference to the dynamics can be a sufficient condition for obtaining in the long run, with high probability, stable regular behavior. I hope to show how certain metaphysical accounts of laws might benefit from the insights achieved in these other fields. According to the proposal studied in this thesis, some regularities are not accidental not in virtue of an underlying physical necessity. The non-accidental character of certain regular behavior is only due to its overwhelming stability. Thus, from this point of view the goal becomes to explain the stability of temporal patterns without assuming a set of pre-existent guiding laws. It is argued that the stability can be the result of a process of convergence to simpler and stable regularities from a more complex lower level. According to this project, if successful, there would be no need to postulate a (mysterious) intermediate category between logical necessity and pure contingency. Similarly, there would be no need to postulate a (mysterious) set of pre-existent governing laws. Part I of the thesis motivates part II, mostly by arguing why further explanation of the notions of physical necessity and governing laws should be welcomed (chapter 1), and by studying the plausibility of a lawless fundamental level (chapters 2 and 3). Given so, part II develops the explanation of formation of simpler and stable behavior from a more complex underlying level. (shrink)
How can a metaphysics of abstract entities be built upon a metaphysics of time? In this paper, I address the question of how to accommodate abstract entities in a presentist world. I consider both the traditional metaontological approach of unrestricted fundamental quantification and then ontological pluralism. I argue that under the former we need to impose two constraints in the characterization of presentism in order to avoid undesired commitments to abstract entities: we have to characterize presentism as a thesis only (...) about the concrete, and we also need to avoid the widely held distinction between tensed and tenseless senses of existence. Under ontological pluralism, instead, I argue that we can naturally accommodate any view of abstract objects in a presentist world. (shrink)
It is not uncommon in the history of science and philosophy to encounter crucial experiments or crucial objections the truth-value of which we are ignorant, that is, about which we suspend judgment. Should we ignore such objections? Contrary to widespread practice, I show that in and only in some circumstances they should not be ignored, for the epistemically rational doxastic attitude is to suspend judgment also about the hypothesis that the objection targets. In other words, suspension of judgment "propagates" from (...) the crucial objection to the hypothesis. In this paper I study under which conditions this phenomenon occurs, and discuss its significance for the topics of skepticism and scientific realism. (shrink)
Certain results, most famously in classical statistical mechanics and complex systems, but also in quantum mechanics and high-energy physics, yield a coarse-grained stable statistical pattern in the long run. The explanation of these results shares a common structure: the results hold for a ‘typical’ dynamics, that is, for most of the underlying dynamics. In this paper I argue that the structure of the explanation of these results might shed some light—a different light—on philosophical debates on the laws of nature. In (...) the explanation of such patterns, the specific form of the underlying dynamics is almost irrelevant. The constraints required, given a free state-space evolution, suffice to account for the coarse-grained lawful behaviour. An analysis of such constraints might thus provide a different account of how regular behaviour can occur. This paper focuses on drawing attention to this type of explanation, outlining it in the diverse areas of physics in which it appears, and discussing its limitations and significance in the tractable setting of classical statistical mechanics. (shrink)
Much recent philosophy of physics has investigated the process of symmetry breaking. Here, I critically assess the alleged symmetry restoration at the fundamental scale. I draw attention to the contingency that gauge symmetries exhibit, that is, the fact that they have been chosen from an infinite space of possibilities. I appeal to this feature of group theory to argue that any metaphysical account of fundamental laws that expects symmetry restoration up to the fundamental level is not fully satisfactory. This is (...) a symmetry argument in line with Curie’s first principle. Further, I argue that this same feature of group theory helps to explain the ‘unreasonable’ effectiveness of mathematics in physics, and that it reduces the philosophical significance that has been attributed to the objectivity of gauge symmetries. (shrink)
This paper aims to support the claim that analytic metaphysics should be more cautious regarding the constraints that truthmaking considerations impose on metaphysical theories. To this end, I reply to Briggs and Forbes (2017), whoargue that certain truthmaking commitments are incurred by a Humean metaphysics and by the Growing-Block theory. First, I argue that Humean Supervenience does not need to endorse a standard version of truthmaker maximalism. This undermines Briggs and Forbes’s conclusion that Humean Supervenience and the Growing-Block theory are (...) incompatible. Second, I argue that the Growing-Block theory does not commit us to any weaker version of truthmaker maximalism, which also undermines Briggs and Forbes’s conclusion. Finally, I point out other reasons to think that any version of truthmaker maximalism is disputable, undermining a fortiori Briggs and Forbes’s conclusion and supporting the moral that metaphysical theories—or at least Humean Supervenience, the Growing-Block theory, and presentism—are little constrained by truthmaking commitments. (shrink)
En esta entrada se mencionan las principales cuestiones en los fundamentos de la mecánica estadı́stica y la termodinámica, y las cuestiones filosóficas en las que repercuten estas áreas de la fı́sica. Al final se añaden lecturas recomendadas, enfatizando las traducidas al español.