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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
'Microphysicalism', the view that whole objects behave the way they do in virtue of the behaviour of their constituent parts, is an influential contemporary view with a long philosophical and scientific heritage. In _What's Wrong With Microphysicalism?_ Andreas Hüttemann offers a fresh challenge to this view. Hüttemann agrees with the microphysicalists that we can explain compound systems by explaining their parts, but claims that this does not entail a fundamentalism that gives hegemony to the micro-level. At most, it shows that (...) there is a relationship of determination between parts and wholes, but there is no justification for taking this relationship to be asymmetrical rather than one of mutual dependence. Hüttemann argues that if this is the case, then microphysicalists have no right to claim that the micro-level is the ultimate agent: neither the parts nor the whole have 'ontological priority'. Hüttemann advocates a pragmatic pluralism, allowing for different ways to describe nature. _What's Wrong With Microphysicalism?_ is a convincing and original contribution to central issues in contemporary philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and metaphysics. (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.
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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.
In this paper I intend to analyse whether a certain kind of physicalism (part-wholephysicalism)is supported by what classical mechanics and quantum mechanics have to say about the part whole relation. I will argue that not even the most likely candidates – namely cases of microexplanation of the dynamics of compound systems – provide evidence for part whole-physicalism, i.e. the thesis that the behaviour of the compound obtains in virtue of the behaviour of the parts. Physics does not dictate part-whole-physicalism.
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 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 open future-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)
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)
The paper analyses how knowledge claims can be extrapolated from laboratory situation to more complex situations. It argues that claims by Tetens, Knorr-Cetina and Cartwright that put doubts on extrapolation are unwarrented.
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 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)
Die Untersuchung besteht aus drei Teilen. Im ersten Teil argumentiere ich, daß in der frühen Neuzeit durch die Zurückweisung des scholastischen Vokabulars das Problem, Ordnung und Regelmäßigkeit in der Natur zu erklären, neu aufgeworfen wird. Descartes führt den Begriff des Naturgesetzes ein, um dieses Problem zu lösen. Im zweiten und dritten Teil analysiere ich, was Descartes unter einem Naturgesetz versteht. Im zweiten Teil zeige ich, daß es für die verbreitete Auffassung, Descartes halte Naturgesetze für ewige Wahrheiten, keine guten Gründe gibt. (...) Im dritten Teil untersuche ich die Rolle, die Gott – Descartes zufolge – als Urheber der Naturgesetze spielt. Ich argumentiere, daß die “Daumenkino”-Auffassung von Naturgesetzen keine Folge der “creatio continua”- These ist, sondern eine Konsequenz des Cartesischen Materiebegriffs. Schließlich bemühe ich mich verständlich zu machen, weshalb Descartes fürchtet, seine Naturgesetzauffassung lege die Hypothese nahe, Gott sei die Weltseele. (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 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”. En este artículo presento un problema, al menos para aquellos humeanos que creen que el futuro está abierto. Argumentaré, en particular, que el siguiente aspecto de la práctica científica no puede ser explicado por la tesis humeana del futuro abierto: la distinción entre estados que no podemos provocar y estados que simplemente no podemos generar. Dicha tesis no puede ofrecer un tratamiento convincente de esta distinción. Por ello fracasa al explicar por qué no podemos provocar ciertos estados de cosas; no puede explicar, pues, lo que denomino “la obstinación de la naturaleza”. (shrink)
Statistical mechanics attempts to explain the behaviour of macroscopic physical systems in terms of the mechanical properties of their constituents. Although it is one of the fundamental theories of physics, it has received little attention from philosophers of science. Nevertheless, it raises philosophical questions of fundamental importance on the nature of time, chance and reduction. Most philosophical issues in this domain relate to the question of the reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics. This book addresses issues inherent in this reduction: (...) the time-asymmetry of thermodynamics and its absence in statistical mechanics; the role and essential nature of chance and probability in this reduction when thermodynamics is non-probabilistic; and how, if at all, the reduction is possible. Compiling contributions on current research by experts in the field, this is an invaluable survey of the philosophy of statistical mechanics for academic researchers and graduate students interested in the foundations of physics. (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)
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.