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)
Humean reductionism about laws of nature appears to leave a central aspect of scientific practice unmotivated: If the world’s fundamental structure is exhausted by the actual distribution of non-modal properties and the laws of nature are merely efficient summaries of this distribution, then why does science posit laws that cover a wide range of non-actual circumstances? In this paper, we develop a new version of the Humean best systems account of laws based on the idea that laws need to organize (...) information in a way that maximizes their cognitive usefulness for creature like us. We argue that this account motivates scientific practice because the laws’ applicability to non-actual circumstances falls right out of their cognitive usefulness. (shrink)
Dispositional essentialism is a non-Humean view about the essences of certain fundamental or natural properties that looms large in recent metaphysics , not least because it promises to explain neatly the natural modalities such as laws of nature, counterfactuals, causation and chance. In the current paper, however, several considerations are presented that indicate a serious tension between its essentialist core thesis and natural “metaphysical” interpretations of its central explanatory claims.
Humean reductionism about laws of nature is the view that the laws reduce to the total distribution of non-modal or categorical properties in spacetime. A worry about Humean reductionism is that it cannot motivate the characteristic modal resilience of laws under counterfactual suppositions and that it thus generates wrong verdicts about certain nested counterfactuals. In this paper, we defend Humean reductionism by motivating an account of the modal resilience of Humean laws that gets nested counterfactuals right.
Humean Supervenience is a metaphysical model of the world according to which all truths hold in virtue of nothing but the total spatiotemporal distribution of perfectly natural, intrinsic properties. David Lewis and others have worked out many aspects of HS in great detail. A larger motivational question, however, remains unanswered: As Lewis admits, there is strong evidence from fundamental physics that HS is false. What then is the purpose of defending HS? In this paper, we argue that the philosophical merit (...) of HS is largely independent of whether it correctly represents the world’s fundamental structure. In particular, we show that insofar as HS is an apt model of the world’s higher-level structure, it thereby provides a powerful argument for reductive physicalism and explains otherwise opaque inferential relations. Recent criticism of HS on the grounds that it misrepresents fundamental physical reality is, therefore, beside the point. (shrink)
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 (...) powerful properties (Bird, 2007), necessitation relations (Armstrong, 1983), or primitive subjunctive facts (Lange, 2009). This volume focuses on recent developments in the discussion of Humeanism, specifically on pragmatic versions of the view that put the needs of limited agents like us front and center. (shrink)
The Humean best systems account identifies laws of nature with the regularities in a system of truths that, as a whole, best conforms to scientific standards for theory-choice. A principled problem for the BSA is that it returns the wrong verdicts about laws in cases where multiple systems, containing different regularities, satisfy these standards equally well. This problem affects every version of the BSA because it arises regardless of which standards for theory-choice Humeans adopt. In this paper, we propose a (...) Humean response to the problem. We invoke pragmatic aspects of Humean laws to show that the BSA, despite violating some of our intuitive judgements, can capture everything that is relevant for scientific practice. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue that the popular claim that laws of nature explain their instances creates a philosophical puzzle when it is combined with the widely held requirement that explanations need to be underpinned by ‘wordly’ relations. We argue that a “direct solution” to the puzzle that accounts for both explanatory laws and explanatory realism requires endorsing at least a radical metaphysics. Then, we examine the ramifications of a “skeptical solution”, i.e., dissolving it by giving up at least one (...) of these two claims, and argue that adopting it is more favorable to Humean reductionists than to anti-reductionists about laws of nature. (shrink)
Humean Laws for Human Agents presents cutting-edge research by leading experts on the Humean account of laws, chance, possibility, and necessity. A central question in metaphysics and philosophy of science is: What are laws of nature? Humeans hold that laws are not sui generis metaphysical entities but merely particularly effective summaries of what actually happens. The most discussed recent work on Humeanism emphasizes the laws' usefulness for limited agents and uses pragmatic considerations to address fundamental and long-standing problems. The current (...) volume develops and critically examines pragmatic Humean accounts, with innovative new work on the epistemology of laws and chance, the problem of induction, counterfactuals, special science laws, and a Humean account of essence. Taken together, the papers provide a roadmap for developing pragmatic Humeanism and connate views, setting the agenda for future research. (shrink)
The notion of a law of nature is a central component of our scientific and philosophical conception of reality. The lawful character of our world makes natural phenomena predictable, understandable and manipulable in specific ways. This book provides a systematic overview of the most important philosophical conceptions of laws and concludes with a presentation of a novel version of the best systems theory.