In her paper, “The Non-Governing Conception of Laws,” Helen Beebee argues that it is not a conceptual truth that laws of nature govern, and thus that one need not insist on a metaphysical account of laws that makes sense of their governing role. I agree with the first point but not the second. Although it is not a conceptual truth, the fact that laws govern follows straightforwardly from an important (though under-appreciated) principle of scientific theory choice combined with a highly (...) plausible claim about the connection between scientific theory choice and theory choice in metaphysics. I present and defend this argument and then show how the resulting understanding of governance gives rise to an especially strong version of recent explanatory circularity arguments against Humeanism about laws of nature. Finally, I present three options for a further understanding of the governance relation that are compatible with my argument. (shrink)
I present an argument for the view that laws ground their instances. I then outline two important consequences that follow if we accept the conclusion of this argument. First, the claim that laws ground their instances threatens to undermine a prominent recent attempt to make sense of the explanatory power of Humean laws by distinguishing between metaphysical and scientific explanation. And second, the claim that laws ground their instances gives rise to a novel argument against the view that grounding relations (...) are metaphysically necessary. (shrink)
Philosophers and scientists both ask questions about what the world is like. How do these fields interact with one another? How should they? Naturalism Beyond the Limits of Science investigates an approach to these questions called methodological naturalism. According to methodological naturalism, when coming up with theories about what the world is like, philosophers should, whenever possible, make use of the same methodology that is deployed by scientists. Although many contemporary philosophers have implicit commitments that lead straightforwardly to methodological naturalism, (...) few have a clear understanding of how widespread and disruptive methodological naturalism promises to be for the field. By way of a series of case studies involving laws of nature, composition, time and modality, and drawing on historical and contemporary scientific developments including the discovery of the neutrino, the introduction of dark energy, and the advent of relativity theory, this book demonstrates the ways in which scientists rely on extra-empirical reasoning and how that very same extra-empirical reasoning can yield surprising results when applied to philosophical debates. Along the way, Nina Emery's investigation illuminates the complex relationship between philosophy and the sciences, and makes the case that philosophers and scientists alike would benefit from a greater understanding of the connections between the two fields. (shrink)
I argue against the common and influential view that non-trivial chances arise only when the fundamental laws are indeterministic. The problem with this view, I claim, is not that it conflicts with some antecedently plausible metaphysics of chance or that it fails to capture our everyday use of ‘chance’ and related terms, but rather that it is unstable. Any reason for adopting the position that non-trivial chances arise only when the fundamental laws are indeterministic is also a reason for adopting (...) a much stronger, and far less attractive, position. I suggest an alternative account, according to which chances are probabilities that play a certain explanatory role: they are probabilities that explain associated frequencies. (shrink)
Some theories of quantum mechanical phenomena endorse wave function realism, according to which the physical space we inhabit is very different from the physical space we appear to inhabit. In this paper I explore an argument against wave function realism that appeals to a type of simplicity that, although often overlooked, plays a crucial role in scientific theory choice. The type of simplicity in question is simplicity of fit between the way a theory says the world is and the way (...) the world appears to be. This argument can be understood as one way of spelling out the so-called “incredulous stare objection” that is sometimes leveled against surprising metaphysical theories. (shrink)
I argue against the common and influential view that non-trivial chances arise only when the fundamental laws are indeterministic. The problem with this view, I claim, is not that it conflicts with some antecedently plausible metaphysics of chance or that it fails to capture our everyday use of ‘chance’ and related terms, but rather that it is unstable. Any reason for adopting the position that non-trivial chances arise only when the fundamental laws are indeterministic is also a reason for adopting (...) a much stronger, and far less attractive, position. I suggest an alternative account, according to which chances are probabilities that play a certain explanatory role: they are probabilities that explain associated frequencies. 1 Introduction2 A Paradigm Case3 The Incompatibilist’s Criterion4 Against the Incompatibilist’s Criterion5 The Explanatory Criterion6 Conclusion. (shrink)
Actualism is the view that only actually existing things exist. Presentism is the view that only presently existing things exist. In this paper, I argue that being an actualist without also being a presentist is not as easy as many philosophers seem to think. A common objection to presentism is that there is an unavoidable conflict between presentism and relativity theory. But actualists who do not wish to be presentists cannot point to this relativity objection alone to support their position. (...) Unless they have some antecedent reason for thinking that actualism is more plausible than presentism, anyone who is moved by the relativity objection to give up presentism should be moved by a related objection to give up actualism as well. If there is a reason to be an actualist without also being a presentist, it must go beyond the relativity objection to presentism. (shrink)
I argue that the way the world appears to be plays an important role in standard scientific practice, and that therefore the way the world appears to be ought to play a similar role in metaphysics as well. I then show how the argument bears on a specific first-order debate in metaphysics—the debate over whether there are composite objects. This debate is often thought to be a paradigm case of a metaphysical debate that is largely insulated from scientific considerations, and (...) is often disparaged or avoided by naturalistically-inclined metaphysicians as a result. My argument below shows that this attitude is a mistake. The way in which metaphysical debates can be informed by our best science is more complex and far-reaching than is often acknowledged in the literature. (shrink)
This chapter focuses on the relations between objective probabilities in physical theories at different levels. In general philosophy of probability, it is frequently assumed that a fundamental deterministic theory cannot support probabilistic phenomena at any higher level, or more generally that there cannot be non-trivial probabilities in higher-level theories that are not encoded in probabilities at the lower level. These assumptions face significant challenges from some well-understood physical theories – I focus on statistical mechanics and Bohmian mechanics – where a (...) deterministic description at some lower level gives rise to an effectively probabilistic theory at some higher level; in each case, constraints arising from an objective physical limitation on the acquisition of evidence concerning the lower level plays a crucial role in supporting the higher-level probabilities. (shrink)
In this critical notice of Kment's _Modality and Explanatory Reasoning_, we focus on Kment’s arguments for impossible worlds and on a key part of his discussion of the interactions between modality and explanation – the analogy that he draws between scientific and metaphysical explanation.
Temporal ersatzism is the view that past entities exist, but are not concrete. The view is analogous to modal ersatzism, according to which merely possible worlds exist, but are not concrete. The goal of this paper is to give the reader a sense of the scope of available temporal ersatzist views, the ways in which the analogy with modal ersatzism may be helpful in characterizing and defending those views, and the sorts of considerations that are relevant when evaluating particular versions (...) of temporal ersatzism. (shrink)
Presentism is the view that only presently existing things exist. Actualism is the view that only actually existing things exist. Although these views have much in common, the position we take with respect to one of them is not usually thought to constrain the position that we may take toward the other. In this paper I argue that this standard attitude deserves further scrutiny. In particular, I argue that the considerations that motivate one common objection to presentism—the grounding objection—threaten to (...) give rise to an analogous grounding objection to actualism. Those who are moved by grounding considerations to give up presentism should either be moved by analogous considerations to give up actualism as well or be prepared to undertake quite a bit of further work in order to defend their position. (shrink)
A series of recent arguments purport to show that most counterfactuals of the form if A had happened then C would have happened are not true. These arguments pose a challenge to those of us who think that counterfactual discourse is a useful part of ordinary conversation, of philosophical reasoning, and of scientific inquiry. Either we find a way to revise the semantics for counterfactuals in order to avoid these arguments, or we find a way to ensure that the relevant (...) counterfactuals, while not true, are still assertible. I argue that regardless of which of these two strategies we choose, the natural ways of implementing these strategies all share a surprising consequence: they commit us to a particular metaphysical view about chance. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Temporal eliminativism is the view that the present is privileged because past and future entities do not exist. Temporal ersatzism is the view that the present is privileged because, although past and future entities exist, they are not concrete. I argue that shifting from temporal eliminativism to temporal ersatzism can help to address objections to the former theory that are due to relativity theory—but only if temporal ersatzism is understood in a fairly specific way and only in so far (...) as the temporal ersatzist is willing to take on some prima facie surprising commitments. I close by showing how the claims that I make with respect to temporal ersatzism generalise to other theories of time on which the present is privileged, including McDaniel’s  presentist existential pluralism. (shrink)
I distinguish between two different ways in which the wavefunction might play a role in explaining the behavior of quantum systems and argue that a satisfactory account of quantum ontology will make it possible for the wavefunction to explain the behavior of quantum systems in both of these way. I then show how this constraint has the potential to impact two quite different accounts of quantum ontology.
I argue that, in at least one important sense, the hypothesis that you are a brain in a vat provides better explanations than the explanations provided by standard ways of interpreting our best scientific theories. This puts pressure on anyone who—like me!—wishes to resist taking this radical hypothesis seriously when doing science and scientifically-informed metaphysics. Insofar as our resistance is justified, it can’t be justified simply by claiming that the brain in a vast hypothesis is explanatorily impoverished.