Non‐Humean theories of natural necessity invoke modally‐laden primitives to explain why nature exhibits lawlike regularities. However, they vary in the primitives they posit and in their subsequent accounts of laws of nature and related phenomena (including natural properties, natural kinds, causation, counterfactuals, and the like). This article provides a taxonomy of non‐Humean theories, discusses influential arguments for and against them, and describes some ways in which differences in goals and methods can motivate different versions of non‐Humeanism (and, for that matter, (...) Humeanism). In short, this article provides an introduction to non‐Humeanism concerning the metaphysics of laws of nature and natural necessity. (shrink)
According to the Nomological Argument, observed regularities in nature are best explained by an appeal to a supernatural being. A successful explanation must avoid two perils. Some explanations provide too little structure, predicting a universe without regularities. Others provide too much structure, thereby precluding an explanation of certain types of lawlike regularities featured in modern scientific theories. We argue that an explanation based in the creative, intentional action of a supernatural being avoids these two perils whereas leading competitors do not. (...) Although our argument falls short of a full defense, it does suggest that the Nomological Argument is worthy of philosophical attention. (shrink)
According to structuralism, all natural properties are individuated by their roles in causal/nomological structures. According to quidditism, at least some natural properties are individuated in some other way. Because these theses deal with the identities of natural properties, this distinction cuts to the core of a serious metaphysical dispute: Are the intrinsic natures of all natural properties essentially causal/nomological in character? I'll argue that the answer is ‘no’, or at least that this answer is more plausible than many critics of (...) quidditism have recognized. In section 1, I distinguish between two versions of quidditism. Bare quidditism holds that worlds with distinct properties and isomorphic structures must be qualitatively identical in the following sense: inhabiting one world would be indistinguishable from inhabiting the other. In contrast, qualitative quidditism allows such worlds to have qualitative differences. In section 2, I discuss an epistemological position that allows us to bett... (shrink)
David Armstrong accepted the following three theses: universals are immanent, laws are relations between universals, and laws govern. Taken together, they form an attractive position, for they promise to explain regularities in nature—one of the most important desiderata for a theory of laws and properties—while remaining compatible with naturalism. However, I argue that the three theses are incompatible. The basic idea is that each thesis makes an explanatory claim, but the three claims can be shown to run in a problematic (...) circle. I then consider which thesis we ought to reject and suggest some general lessons for the metaphysics of laws. (shrink)
This Element provides an opinionated introduction to the metaphysics of laws of nature. The first section distinguishes between scientific and philosophical questions about laws and describes some criteria for a philosophical account of laws. Subsequent sections explore the leading philosophical theories in detail, reviewing the most influential arguments in the literature. The final few sections assess the state of the field and suggest avenues for future research.
One reason to posit governing laws is to explain the uniformity of nature. Explanatory power can be purchased by accepting new primitives, and scientists invoke laws in their explanations without providing any supporting metaphysics. For these reasons, one might suspect that we can treat laws as wholly unanalyzable primitives. (John Carroll’s *Laws of Nature* (1994) and Tim Maudlin’s *The Metaphysics Within Physics* (2007) offer recent defenses of primitivism about laws.) Whatever defects primitive laws might have, explanatory weakness should not be (...) one of them. However, in this essay I’ll argue that wholly primitive laws cannot explain the uniformity of nature. The basic argument is based on the following idea: though a primitive law that P makes P likely, the primitive status of the law provides no reason to think that P must describe (or otherwise give rise to) a natural regularity. After identifying the problem for primitive laws, I consider an extension of the objection to all theories of governing laws and suggest that it may be avoided by a version of the Dretske/Tooley/Armstrong theory according to which laws are relations between universals. (shrink)
The necessitarian solution to the problem of induction involves two claims: first, that necessary connections are justified by an inference to the best explanation; second, that the best theory of necessary connections entails the timeless uniformity of nature. In this paper, I defend the second claim. My arguments are based on considerations from the metaphysics of laws, properties, and fundamentality.
This article is concerned with the relationship between scientific practice and the metaphysics of laws of nature and natural properties. I begin by examining an argument by Michael Townsen Hicks and Jonathan Schaffer that an important feature of scientific practice—namely, that scientists sometimes invoke non-fundamental properties in fundamental laws—is incompatible with metaphysical theories according to which laws govern. I respond to their argument by developing an epistemology for governing laws that is grounded in scientific practice. This epistemology is of general (...) interest for non-Humean theories of laws, for it helps to explain our epistemic access to non-Humean theoretical entities such as governing laws or fundamental powers. (shrink)
Most social policies cannot be defended without making inductive inferences. For example, consider certain arguments for racial profiling and affirmative action, respectively. They begin with statistics about crime or socioeconomic indicators. Next, there is an inductive step in which the statistic is projected from the past to the future. Finally, there is a normative step in which a policy is proposed as a response in the service of some goal—for example, to reduce crime or to correct socioeconomic imbalances. In comparison (...) to the normative step, the inductive step of a policy defense may seem trivial. We argue that this is not so. Satisfying the demands of the inductive step is difficult, and doing so has important but underappreciated implications for the normative step. In this paper, we provide an account of induction in social contexts and explore its implications for policy. Our account helps to explain which normative principles we ought to accept, and as a result it can explain why it is acceptable to make inferences involving race in some contexts (e.g., in defense of affirmative action) but not in others (e.g., in defense of racial profiling). (shrink)
Fred Dretske, Michael Tooley, and David Armstrong accept a theory of governing laws of nature according to which laws are atomic states of affairs that necessitate corresponding natural regularities. Some philosophers object to the Dretske/Tooley/Armstrong theory on the grounds that there is no illuminating account of the necessary connection between governing law and natural regularity. In response, Michael Tooley has provided a reductive account of this necessary connection in his book Causation (1987). In this essay, I discuss an improved version (...) of his account and argue that it fails. First, the account cannot be extended to explain the necessary connection between certain sorts of laws—namely, probabilistic laws and laws relating structural universals—and their corresponding regularities. Second, Tooley’s account succeeds only by (very subtly) incorporating primitive necessity elsewhere, so the problem of avoiding primitive necessity is merely relocated. (shrink)
One of the traditional desiderata for a metaphysical theory of laws of nature is that it be able to explain natural regularities. Some philosophers have postulated governing laws to fill this explanatory role. Recently, however, many have attempted to explain natural regularities without appealing to governing laws. Suppose that some fundamental properties are bare dispositions. In virtue of their dispositional nature, these properties must be (or are likely to be) distributed in regular patterns. Thus it would appear that an ontology (...) including bare dispositions can dispense with governing laws of nature. I believe that there is a problem with this line of reasoning. In this essay, I’ll argue that governing laws are indispensable for the explanation of a special sort of natural regularity: those holding among categorical properties (or, as I’ll call them, categorical regularities). This has the potential to be a serious objection to the denial of governing laws, since there may be good reasons to believe that observed regularities are categorical regularities. (shrink)
According to best systems accounts, laws of nature are generalizations in the best systematization of particular matters of fact. Metrics such as simplicity and strength determine which systematization is best, but these are notoriously language relative. For this reason, David Lewis proposed a constraint on languages of inquiry: all predicates must be natural. This constraint is sometimes interpreted as requiring us to know which natural properties are instantiated in our world prior to scientific theorizing. I argue that this interpretation is (...) incorrect. I provide a better interpretation and show how it undercuts an influential epistemological objection to Lewis's best systems account of laws due to Bas van Fraassen. (shrink)
According to dispositionalism, fundamental properties are dispositions—powers that don’t reduce to other properties, laws, or anything else. As dispositions manifest, natural regularities result, so this view appears to explain the uniformity of nature. However, in this paper I’ll argue that there are types of regularities that can’t be explained by dispositionalism. The basic idea is this. All accounts of fundamental dispositions endow properties with a certain sort of structure. This allows explanations of only those regularities that align with such structures. (...) In this paper, I identify a type of natural regularity that cannot fit dispositionalist structures and show why the possibility of such regularities is problematic. (shrink)
A reply to contemporary skepticism about intuitions and a priori knowledge, and a defense of neo-rationalism from a contemporary Kantian standpoint, focusing on the theory of rational intuitions and on solving the two core problems of justifying and explaining them.
According to the Humean Best Systems Account, laws are generalizations in the best systematization of non-modal matters of fact. Recently, it has become popular to interpret the notion of a best system pragmatically. The best system is sensitive to our interests--that is, to our goals, abilities, and limitations. This account promises a metaphysically minimalistic analysis of laws, but I argue that it is not as minimalistic as it might appear. Some of the concepts it employs are modally robust, leading to (...) a dilemma. (shrink)