Laws of nature take center stage in philosophy of science. Laws are usually believed to stand in a tight conceptual relation to many important key concepts such as causation, explanation, confirmation, determinism, counterfactuals etc. Traditionally, philosophers of science have focused on physical laws, which were taken to be at least true, universal statements that support counterfactual claims. But, although this claim about laws might be true with respect to physics, laws in the special sciences (such as biology, psychology, economics etc.) (...) appear to have—maybe not surprisingly—different features than the laws of physics. Special science laws—for instance, the economic law “Under the condition of perfect competition, an increase of demand of a commodity leads to an increase of price, given that the quantity of the supplied commodity remains constant” and, in biology, Mendel's Laws—are usually taken to “have exceptions”, to be “non-universal” or “to be ceteris paribus laws”. How and whether the laws of physics and the laws of the special sciences differ is one of the crucial questions motivating the debate on ceteris paribus laws. Another major, controversial question concerns the determination of the precise meaning of “ceteris paribus”. Philosophers have attempted to explicate the meaning of ceteris paribus clauses in different ways. The question of meaning is connected to the problem of empirical content, i.e., the question whether ceteris paribus laws have non-trivial and empirically testable content. Since many philosophers have argued that ceteris paribus laws lack empirically testable content, this problem constitutes a major challenge to a theory of ceteris paribus laws. (shrink)
Earman and Roberts claim that there is neither a persuasive account of the truth-conditions of ceteris paribus laws, nor of how such laws can be confirmed or disconfirmed. I will give an account of the truth conditions of ceteris paribus laws in physics in terms of dispositions. It will meet the objections standardly raised against such an account. Furthermore I will elucidate how ceteris paribus laws can be tested in physics. The essential point is that physics provides methodologies for dealing (...) with disturbing factors. For this reason disturbing factors need not be listed explicitly in law-statements. In virtue of the methodologies it is possible to test how systems would behave if the disturbing factors were absent. I will argue that this suffices to establish the tenability of the dispositional account of ceteris paribus laws. (shrink)
The inapplicability of variations on theory reduction in the context of genetics and their irrelevance to ongoing research has led to an anti-reductionist consensus in philosophy of biology. One response to this situation is to focus on forms of reductive explanation that better correspond to actual scientific reasoning (e.g. part–whole relations). Working from this perspective, we explore three different aspects (intrinsicality, fundamentality, and temporality) that arise from distinct facets of reductive explanation: composition and causation. Concentrating on these aspects generates new (...) forms of reductive explanation and conditions for their success or failure in biology and other sciences. This analysis is illustrated using the case of protein folding in molecular biology, which demonstrates its applicability and relevance, as well as illuminating the complexity of reductive reasoning in a specific biological context. (shrink)
We address the question whether there is an explanation for the fact that as Fodor put it the micro-level “converges on stable macro-level properties”, and whether there are lessons from this explanation for other issues in the vicinity. We argue that stability in large systems can be understood in terms of statistical limit theorems. In the thermodynamic limit of infinite system size N → ∞ systems will have strictly stable macroscopic properties in the sense that transitions between different macroscopic phases (...) of matter (if there are any) will not occur in finite time. Indeed stability in this sense is a consequence of the absence of fluctuations, as (large) fluctuations would be required to induce such macroscopic transformations. These properties can be understood in terms of coarse-grained descriptions, and the statistical limit theorems for independent or weakly dependent random variable describing the behaviour averages and the statistics of fluctuations in the large system limit. We argue that RNG analyses applied to off-critical systems can provide a rationalization for the applicability of these limit theorems. Furthermore we discuss some related issues as, for example, the role of the infinite-system idealization. (shrink)
Laws are supposed to tell us how physical systems actually behave. The analysis of an important part of physical practice--abstraction--shows, however, that laws describe the behavior of physical systems under very special circumstances, namely when they are isolated. Nevertheless, laws are applied in cases of non-isolation as well. This practice requires an explanation. It is argued that one has to assume that physical systems have dispositions. I take these to be innocuous from an empiricist's standpoint because they can--at least in (...) principle--be measured. Laws can be applied whenever such a disposition is present, they describe how the physical system would behave if the disposition were manifest. (shrink)
Humeans about laws maintain that laws of nature are nothing over and above the complete distribution of non-modal, categorical properties in spacetime. ‘Humean compatibilists’ argue that if Humeanism about laws is true, then agents in a deterministic world can do otherwise than they are lawfully determined to do because of the distinctive nature of Humean laws. More specifically, they reject a central premise of the Consequence argument by maintaining that deterministic laws of nature are ‘up to us’. In this paper, (...) we present a new argument for Humean compatibilism. We argue that Humeans about laws indeed have resources for defending compatibilism that non-Humeans lack. Moreover, we show that utilizing these resources does not lead to objectionable consequences. Humeans about laws should thus embrace Humean compatibilism. (shrink)
What are the metaphysical commitments which best 'make sense' of our scientific practice? In this book, Andreas Hüttemann provides a minimal metaphysics for scientific practice, i.e. a metaphysics that refrains from postulating any structure that is explanatorily irrelevant. Hüttemann closely analyses paradigmatic aspects of scientific practice, such as prediction, explanation and manipulation, to consider the questions whether and what metaphysical presuppositions best account for these practices. He looks at the role which scientific generalisation play in predicting, testing, and explaining the (...) behaviour of systems. He also develops a theory of causation in terms of quasi-inertial processes and interfering factors, and he proposes an account of reductive practices that makes minimal metaphysical assumptions. His book will be valuable for scholars and advanced students working in both philosophy of science and metaphysics. (shrink)
Given certain well-known observations by Mach and Russell, the question arises what place there is for causation in the physical world. My aim in this chapter is to understand under what conditions we can use causal terminology and how it fi ts in with what physics has to say. I will argue for a disposition-based process-theory of causation. After addressing Mach’s and Russell’s concerns I will start by outlining the kind of problem the disposition based process-theory of causation is meant (...) to solve. In a second step I will discuss the nature of those dispositions that will be relevant for our question. In section 3 I will discuss existing dispositional accounts of causation before I proceed to present my own account (sections 4 to 6) and contrast it with traditional process-theories (section 7). (shrink)
In this paper I will introduce a problem for at least those Humeans who believe that the future is open. More particularly, I will argue that the following aspect of scientific practice cannot be explained by openfuture- Humeanism: There is a distinction between states that we cannot bring about (which are represented in scientific models as nomologically impossible) and states that we merely happen not to bring about. Open-future-Humeanism has no convincing account of this distinction. Therefore it fails to explain (...) why we cannot bring about certain states of affairs, it cannot explain what I call the “recalcitrance of nature”. (shrink)
We take the potentialities that are studied in the biological sciences (e.g., totipotency) to be an important subtype of biological dispositions. The goal of this paper is twofold: first, we want to provide a detailed understanding of what biological dispositions are. We claim that two features are essential for dispositions in biology: the importance of the manifestation process and the diversity of conditions that need to be satisfied for the disposition to be manifest. Second, we demonstrate that the concept of (...) a disposition (or potentiality) is a very useful tool for the analysis of the explanatory practice in the biological sciences. On the one hand it allows an in-depth analysis of the nature and diversity of the conditions under which biological systems display specific behaviors. On the other hand the concept of a disposition may serve a unificatory role in the philosophy of the natural sciences since it captures not only the explanatory practice of biology, but of all natural sciences. Towards the end we will briefly come back to the notion of a potentiality in biology. (shrink)
In this paper I will argue that what makes our ordinary judgements about token causation true can be explicated in terms of interferences into quasi-inertial processes. These interferences and quasi-inertial processes can in turn be fully explicated in scientific terms. In this sense the account presented here is reductive. I will furthermore argue that this version of a process-theory of causation can deal with the traditional problems that process theories have to face, such as the problem of misconnection and the (...) problem of disconnection as well as with a problem concerning the mis-classification of pre-emption cases. (shrink)
I will argue firstly that law-statements should be understood as attributing dispositional properties. Second, the dispositions I am talking about should not be conceived as causes of their manifestations but rather as contributors to the behavior of compound systems. And finally I will defend the claim that dispositional properties cannot be reduced in any straightforward sense to non-dispositional (categorical) properties and that they need no categorical bases in the first place.
Reduction and reductionism have been central philosophical topics in analytic philosophy of science for more than six decades. Together they encompass a diversity of issues from metaphysics and epistemology. This article provides an introduction to the topic that illuminates how contemporary epistemological discussions took their shape historically and limns the contours of concrete cases of reduction in specific natural sciences. The unity of science and the impulse to accomplish compositional reduction in accord with a layer-cake vision of the sciences, the (...) seminal contributions of Ernest Nagel on theory reduction and how they strongly conditioned subsequent philosophical discussions, and the detailed issues pertaining to different accounts of reduction that arise in both physical and biological science (e.g., limit-case and part-whole reduction in physics, the difference-making principle in genetics, and mechanisms in molecular biology) are explored. The conclusion argues that the epistemological heterogeneity and patchwork organization of the natural sciences encourages a pluralist stance about reduction. (shrink)
This paper tries to get a grip on two seemingly conflicting intuitions about reductionism in quantum mechanics. On the one hand it is received wisdom that quantum mechanics puts an end to ‘reductionism’. Quantum-entanglement is responsible for such features of quantum mechanics as holism, the failure of supervenience and emergence. While I agree with these claims I will argue that it is only part of the story. Quantum mechanics provides us with thorough-going reductionist explanations. I will distinguish two kinds of (...) micro-explanation (or micro-‘reduction’). I will argue that even though quantum-entanglement provides an example for the failure of one kind of micro-explanation it does not affect the other. Contrary to a recent paper by Kronz and Tiehen I claim that the explanation of the dynamics of quantum mechanical systems is just as reductionist as it used to be in classical mechanics. (shrink)
Powers, capacities and dispositions (in what follows I will use these terms synonymously) have become prominent in recent debates in metaphysics, philosophy of science and other areas of philosophy. In this paper I will analyse in some detail a well-known argument from scientific practice to the existence of powers/capacities/dispositions. According to this argument the practice of extrapolating scientific knowledge from one kind of situation to a different kind of situation requires a specific interpretation of laws of nature, namely as attributing (...) dispositions to systems. My main interest will be to discuss what characteristics these dispositions need to have in order to account for the scientific practice in question. I will furthermore assess whether the introduction of dispositions in the context of the extrapolation argument can be described as a ‘revitalization’ or as a ‘return’ to those notions repudiated by early modern philosophers. More particularly I will argue for the following claims: I. In repudiating scholastic terminology, including substantial forms with their causal powers, post-cartesian philosophers focussed on a concept of causation that was much stronger than 21st century conceptions of causation. For this reason alone, whatever ‘causal’ is supposed to mean in today’s causal powers, embracing causal powers is not a simple return to a pre-cartesian notion. II. The dispositions presupposed in scientific practice need not (and should not) be construed in causal terms (whether strong or weak). III. While some early modern philosophers contrasted the characterisation of the natural world in terms of substantial forms (and their causal powers) on the one hand and a mathematical characterization on the other and suggested that these approaches are incompatible, the dispositions postulated by the extrapolation argument to account for scientific practice are themselves characterized in mathematical terms. More precisely: The behaviour the systems are disposed to display is – at least in physics – often characterized in mathematical terms. IV. The dispositions assumed in the law-statements in scientific practice are determinable rather than determinate properties. (shrink)
Many biologists and philosophers have worried that importing models of reasoning from the physical sciences obscures our understanding of reasoning in the life sciences. In this paper we discuss one example that partially validates this concern: part-whole reductive explanations. Biology and physics tend to incorporate different models of temporality in part-whole reductive explanations. This results from differential emphases on compositional and causal facets of reductive explanations, which have not been distinguished reliably in prior philosophical analyses. Keeping these two facets distinct (...) facilitates the identifi cation of two further aspects of reductive explanation: intrinsicality and fundamentality. Our account provides resources for discriminating between different types of reductive explanation and suggests a new approach to comprehending similarities and differences in the explanatory reasoning found in biology and physics. (shrink)
Biology and history are often viewed as closely related disciplines, with biology informed by history, especially in its task of charting our evolutionary past. Maximizing the opportunities for cross-fertilization in these two fields requires an accurate reckoning of their commonalities and differences-precisely what this volume sets out to achieve. Specially commissioned essays by a team of recognized international researchers cover the full panoply of topics in these fields and include notable contributions on the correlativity of evolutionary and historical explanations, applying (...) to history the latest causal-mechanical approach in the philosophy of biology, and the question of generalized laws that might pertain across the two subjects. The collection opens with a vital interrogation of general issues on explanation that apart from potentially fruitful areas of interaction (could the etiology of the causal-mechanical perspective in biology account for the historical trajectory of the Roman Empire?) this volume also seeks to chart relative certainties distinguishing explanations in biology and history. It also assesses techniques such as the use of probabilities in biological reconstruction, deployed to overcome the inevitable gaps in physical evidence on early evolution. Methodologies such as causal graphs and semantic explanation receive in-depth analysis. Contributions from a host of prominent and widely read philosophers ensure that this new volume has the stature of a major addition to the literature. (shrink)
In this paper I take a look at what I take to be the best argument for dispositions. According to this argument we need dispositions in order to understand certain features of scientific practice. I point out that these dispositions have to be continuously manifestable. Furthermore I will argue that dispositions are not the causes of their manifestations. However, dispositions and causation are closely connected. What it is to be a cause can best be understood in terms of counterfactuals that (...) are based on dispositions. (shrink)
In some German-language contributions to the debate on free will, it is assumed or claimed that determinism is not an empirically verifiable thesis. Peter Bieri, for example, thinks that one must presuppose determinism in order to understand the world as a conceivable world. Determinism would then not be an empirical thesis, but rather a condition without which the conceivability of the world cannot be thought (Bieri 2001, 15/16). Geert Keil writes that determinism "can neither be verified nor falsified experimentally and (...) therefore determinism [is] a metaphysical thesis, not a scientific one" (Keil 2018, 58). In contrast to these two claims, I will argue that determinism is most usefully conceived as an empirical thesis whose verification faces many difficulties. These difficulties, however, are not fundamentally different from those faced by other empirical theses. (shrink)
John Earman and John T. Roberts advocate a challenging and radical claim regarding the semantics of laws in the special sciences: the statistical account. According to this account, a typical special science law “asserts a certain precisely defined statistical relation among well-defined variables” and this statistical relation does not require being hedged by ceteris paribus conditions. In this paper, we raise two objections against the attempt to cash out the content of special science generalizations in statistical terms.
Causal Bayes nets (CBNs) provide one of the most powerful tools for modelling coarse-grained type-level causal structure. As in other fields (e.g., thermodynamics) the question arises how such coarse-grained characterisations are related to the characterisation of their underlying structure (in this case: token-level causal relations). Answering this question meets what is called a “coherence-requirement” in the reduction debate: How are different accounts of one and the same system (or kind of system) related to each other. We argue that CBNs as (...) tools for type-level causal inference are abstract enough to roughly fit any current token-level theory of causation as long as certain modelling assumptions are satisfied, but accounts of actual causation, i.e. accounts that attempt to infer token-causation based on CBNs, for the very same reason, face certain limitations. (shrink)
The compact and, with \ M\, very massive object located at the center of the Milky Way is currently the very best candidate for a supermassive black hole in our immediate vicinity. The strongest evidence for this is provided by measurements of stellar orbits, variable X-ray emission, and strongly variable polarized near-infrared emission from the location of the radio source Sagittarius A* in the middle of the central stellar cluster. Simultaneous near-infrared and X-ray observations of SgrA* have revealed insights into (...) the emission mechanisms responsible for the powerful near-infrared and X-ray flares from within a few tens to one hundred Schwarzschild radii of such a putative SMBH. If SgrA* is indeed a SMBH it will, in projection onto the sky, have the largest event horizon and will certainly be the first and most important target for very long baseline interferometry observations currently being prepared by the event horizon telescope. These observations in combination with the infrared interferometry experiment GRAVITY at the very large telescope interferometer and other experiments across the electromagnetic spectrum might yield proof for the presence of a black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The large body of evidence continues to discriminate the identification of SgrA* as a SMBH from alternative possibilities. It is, however, unclear when the ever mounting evidence for SgrA* being associated with a SMBH will suffice as a convincing proof. Additional compelling evidence may come from future gravitational wave observatories. This manuscript reviews the observational facts, theoretical grounds and conceptual aspects for the case of SgrA* being a black hole. We treat theory and observations in the framework of the philosophical discussions about “realism and underdetermination”, as this line of arguments allows us to describe the situation in observational astrophysics with respect to supermassive black holes. Questions concerning the existence of supermassive black holes and in particular SgrA* are discussed using causation as an indispensable element. We show that the results of our investigation are convincingly mapped out by this combination of concepts. (shrink)
Whether or not we are able to do x is on many philosophical accounts of our moral practice relevant for whether we are responsible for not doing x or for being excusable for not having done x. In this paper I will examine how such accounts are affected by whether a Humean or non-Humean account of laws is presupposed. More particularly, I will argue that (on one interpretation) Humean conceptions of laws, while able to avoid the consequence argument, run into (...) what might be called “the problem of radical freedom”: Humean laws fail to constrain what we can do. By contrast, non-Humean laws (and Humean laws on a second interpretation) avoid the problem of radical freedom but have no easy way out of the consequence argument. (shrink)
In this paper we intend to examine whether there are examples for emergence to be found in physics. The answer depends on the concept of emergence one invokes. We distinguish two such concepts, those of Broad and Kim. We will argue that it is unlikely that there will be examples with respect to the former because it runs counter to an explanatory strategy that is both well entrenched in physical practice and to a certain degree flexible. On the other hand (...) we will argue that all those physical systems that provide an example for supervenience are at the same time examples for emergence - at least if one defines emergence the way Kim does. (shrink)
It is my aim in this paper to look at some of the arguments that are brought forward for or against certain claims to unity/disunity (in particular to examine those arguments from science and from scientific practice) in order to evaluate whether they really show what they claim to. This presupposes that the concept or rather the concepts of the unity of physics are reasonably clear. Three concepts of unity can be identified: (1) ontological unity, which refers to the objects (...) physics is about; (2) descriptive unity, which addresses the descriptive devices physics employs in dealing with physical systems (3) unity of practice, which deals with what physicists actually do. (shrink)
In a recently published article A. Nordmann highlighted the fact that Hertz considered it as the greatest pleasure of scientific research to be “alone with nature” and to learn “directly from nature” (see Nordmann, 1998, p. 156). Hertz contrasts this being on his own with nature with the “disputes about human opinions views and demands. (see Nordmann, 1998, p. 156) . It is this contrast between nature on the one hand and human beliefs etc. on the other that is fundamental (...) for his central epistemological pursuit: the attempt to sort out which features of our theories can be attributed to nature as opposed to those which depend on us. I will discuss the various writings in which Hertz touches this subject. (shrink)
According to Descartes, physics rests on metaphysics. Various possible interpretations of this metaphor are considered. I will show that only a weak interpretation can be brought into accordance with other parts of Descartes' philosophy. According to the weak interpretation, physics has to presuppose metaphysics because the latter shows that contrary to widespread contemporary arguments the concepts of mathematical physics are adequate to describe nature. It is argued for this position by comparing the Regulae, where Descartes did not make use of (...) metaphysical arguments, with the Principia, where he did. (shrink)
The principle of the causal closure of the physical plays a central role in the philosophy of mind, especially as a premise in arguments for physicalism. In this paper I explore what role the principle can play in the argument for physicalism and whether the evidence we have for the principle allows for such a role or function.
Moritz Schlick dealt with the question of causality in various places, including in his Allgemeine Erkenntnislehre - but especially in two essays that appeared in the journal Die Naturwissenschaften in 1920 and 1931. I will deal here with the essay "Naturphilosophische Betrachtungen über das Kausalprinzip" from 1920. First, in the first section, I will present the historical context and thus the problems to which Schlick was responding. In the second and third sections, I will reconstruct and discuss Schlick's proposed solutions (...) to these problems. (shrink)
In this paper I argue against readings of Hertz that overly assimilate him into the thought of late 20th century anti-realists and pluralists. Firstly, as is well-known, various images of the same objects are possible according to Hertz. However, I will argue that this envisaged pluralism concerns the situation before all the evidence is considered i. e. before we can decide whether the images are correct and appropriate. Hertz believes in final and decisive battles of the kind he participated in (...) while doing experiments in electrodynamics. Secondly, I will argue that the concept of representation is still quite appropriately applied to important aspects of images, namely when it comes to fundamental physical equations. In this context Hertz explicitly allows that “characteristics of our image, which claim to represent observable relations of things, do really and correctly correspond to them” (Hertz  1956, 9). A final consideration is Hertz’s consistent appeal to the concept of the hypothesis. I will argue that his use of the concept does not indicate that he contributed to an increasing hypothetization of science, if this trend is understood in a strong sense, i. e. as the belief that the correctness of scientific theories cannot be established for principled reasons. As mentioned, when it comes to experimental evidence Hertz believes in decisive battles. (shrink)
In diesem Aufsatz untersuche sich, ob sich der Hobbes’sche Naturzustand als Gefangenendilemma beschreiben lässt und welche Konsequenzen dies gegebenenfalls hat. Ich argumentiere für die Thesen, dass erstens eine solche Beschreibung eine angemessene Charakterisierung des Hobbes’schen Naturzustandes ist , dass das Gefangenendilemma zweitens kein Problem für die Hobbes’sche Argumentation aufwirft und dass drittens Hobbes sein Argumentationsziel verfehlte, wenn er den Naturzustand anders beschriebe, d.h. so, als seien die Applikationsbedingungen des Gefangenendilemmas nicht erfüllt. Das Gefangenendilemma, in dem sich die Naturzustandsbewohner befinden, ist (...) daher notwendige Voraussetzung für die Vernünftigkeit eines Staates, in dem der Souverän mit einer Hobbes’schen Machtfülle ausgestattet ist. (shrink)
The paper presents a version of a theory of actual causation in terms of default-processes and interferences. I will defend this account against criticisms raised by Sebastian Schmoranzer. I will in particular try to explain in what sense the proposed account of causation is reductive. Furthermore I will elucidate how it deals with controversially discussed issues such as pre-emption and the transitivity of causation.
A collection with papers on early modern views on laws and causation. Authors: Michael Hampe, Katia Saporiti, Sven Knebel, Andreas Hüttemann, Friedrich Steinle, Rainer Specht, Hans-Peter Schütt, Dominik Perler, Wolfgang Krohn, Robert Schnepf.