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Michael Townsen Hicks
University of Birmingham
  1. Dynamic Humeanism.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (4):983-1007.
    Humean accounts of laws of nature fail to distinguish between dynamic laws and static initial conditions. But this distinction plays a central role in scientific theorizing and explanation. I motivate the claim that this distinction should matter for the Humean, and show that current views lack the resources to explain it. I then develop a regularity theory that captures this distinction. My view takes empirical accessibility to be one of the primary features of laws, and I identify features laws must (...)
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  2. Humean Laws and Circular Explanation.Michael Townsen Hicks & Peter van Elswyk - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (2):433-443.
    Humeans are often accused of accounting for natural laws in such a way that the fundamental entities that are supposed to explain the laws circle back and explain themselves. Loewer (2012) contends this is only the appearance of circularity. When it comes to the laws of nature, the Humean posits two kinds of explanation: metaphysical and scientific. The circle is then cut because the kind of explanation the laws provide for the fundamental entities is distinct from the kind of explanation (...)
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  3. Derivative Properties in Fundamental Laws.Michael Townsen Hicks & Jonathan Schaffer - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2).
    Orthodoxy has it that only metaphysically elite properties can be invoked in scientifically elite laws. We argue that this claim does not fit scientific practice. An examination of candidate scientifically elite laws like Newton’s F = ma reveals properties invoked that are irreversibly defined and thus metaphysically non-elite by the lights of the surrounding theory: Newtonian acceleration is irreversibly defined as the second derivative of position, and Newtonian resultant force is irreversibly defined as the sum of the component forces. We (...)
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    Breaking the Explanatory Circle.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (2):533-557.
    Humeans are often accused of positing laws which fail to explain or are involved in explanatory circularity. Here, I will argue that these arguments are confused, but not because of anything to do with Humeanism: rather, they rest on false assumptions about causal explanation. I’ll show how these arguments can be neatly sidestepped if one takes on two plausible commitments which are motivated independently of Humeanism: first, that laws don’t directly feature in scientific explanation and second, the view that explanation (...)
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  5.  54
    Isolation, Not Locality.Heather Demarest & Michael Townsen Hicks - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (3):607-619.
    There is a long tradition of preferring local theories to ones that posit lawful or causal influence at a spacetime distance. In this paper, we argue against this preference. We argue that nonlocality is scientifically unobjectionable and that nonlocal theories can be known. Scientists can gather evidence for them and confirm them in much the same way that they do for local theories. We think these observations point to a deeper constraint on scientific theorizing and experimentation: the (quasi‐) isolation of (...)
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    What Everyone Should Say About Symmetries.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2019 - Philosophy of Science 86 (5):1284-1294.
    The laws of nature have an internal explanatory structure. This leads to interesting questions for metaphysicians of laws. What is the nature of this explanation? Marc Lange has recently argued in favor of metalaws: higher-order laws governing other laws, of which symmetry principles may be an example. Lange argues that his view, unlike its competitors, can make sense of the explanatory power of symmetries. I agree with Lange about the explanatory structure of laws but disagree with him about the nature (...)
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    Humeanism and the Pragmatic Turn.Michael Townsen Hicks, Siegfried Jaag & Christian Loew - forthcoming - In Humean Laws for Human Agents. Oxford University Press.
    A central question in the philosophy of science is: What is a law of nature? Different answers to this question define an important schism: Humeans, in the wake of David Hume, hold that the laws of nature are nothing over and above what actually happens and reject irreducible facts about natural modality (Lewis, 1983, 1994; cf. Miller, 2015). According to Non-Humeans, by contrast, the laws are metaphysically fundamental (Maudlin, 2007) or grounded in primitive modal structures, such as dispositional essences of (...)
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  8. How Chance Explains.Michael Townsen Hicks & Alastair Wilson - forthcoming - Noûs.
    What explains the outcomes of chance processes? We claim that their setups do. Chances, we think, mediate these explanations of outcome by setup but do not feature in them. Facts about chances do feature in explanations of a different kind: higher-order explanations, which explain how and why setups explain their outcomes. In this paper, we elucidate this ‘mediator view’ of chancy explanation and defend it from a series of objections. We then show how it changes the playing field in four (...)
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    Making Fit Fit.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (5):931-943.
    Reductionist accounts of objective chance rely on a notion of fit, which ties the chances at a world to the frequencies at that world. Here, I criticize extant measures of the fit of a chance system and draw on recent literature in epistemic utility theory to propose a new model: chances fit a world insofar as they are accurate at that world. I show how this model of fit does a better job of explaining the normative features of chance, its (...)
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  10. Humean Laws for Human Agents.Christian Loew, Siegfried Jaag & Michael Townsen Hicks (eds.) - forthcoming - Oxford UP.