Humeanism and Nonhumeanism about Laws

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian J. Boge (Bergische Universität Wuppertal)
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  1. added 2020-06-27
    Humeanism About Laws of Nature.Harjit Bhogal - forthcoming - Philosophy Compass.
    Humeanism about laws of nature is, roughly, the view that the laws of nature are just patterns, or ways of describing patterns, in the mosaic of events. In this paper I survey some of the (many!) objections that have been raised to Humeanism, considering how the Humean might respond. And I consider how we might make a positive case for Humeanism. The common thread running through all this is that the viability of the Humean view relies on the Humean having (...)
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  2. added 2020-06-27
    Induction and the Glue of the World.Harjit Bhogal - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    Views which deny that there are necessary connections between distinct existences have often been criticized for leading to inductive skepticism. If there is no glue holding the world together then there seems to be no basis on which to infer from past to future. However, deniers of necessary connections have typically been unconcerned. After all, they say, everyone has a problem with induction. But, if we look at the connection between induction and explanation, we can develop the problem of induction (...)
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  3. added 2020-06-08
    Nomic Vagueness.Eddy Keming Chen - manuscript
    If there are fundamental laws of nature, can they fail to be exact? In this paper, I consider the possibility that some fundamental laws are vague. I call this phenomenon nomic vagueness. I propose to characterize nomic vagueness as the existence of borderline lawful worlds. The existence of nomic vagueness raises interesting questions about the mathematical expressibility and metaphysical status of fundamental laws. For a case study, we turn to the Past Hypothesis, a postulate that (partially) explains the direction of (...)
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  4. added 2020-04-20
    Non‐Humean Theories of Natural Necessity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (5):1-1.
    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, (...)
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  5. added 2019-12-14
    Humean Laws and (Nested) Counterfactuals.Christian Loew & Siegfried Jaag - 2020 - Philosophical Quarterly 70 (278):93-113.
    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.
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  6. added 2019-11-16
    Local Qualities.Elizabeth Miller - 2019 - In Karen Bennett & Dean Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, 11. Oxford University Press. pp. 224-242.
    For Humean atomists, cosmic contents supervene on a spatiotemporal mosaic of modally insulated, freely recombinable local qualities. One piecemeal subspecies of Humean atomism promises more than global supervenience—somehow or other—on a separable base; it constrains how exactly elemental inputs yield everything else. Roughly, the distribution of basic local qualities across elements in one part of our cosmos metaphysically suffices for the complete local physical state of that part: anything sharing this part’s basic elemental decoration should share its more complete contents, (...)
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  7. added 2019-10-29
    Platonic Laws of Nature.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (3):365-381.
    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 (...)
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  8. added 2019-10-12
    Necessary Laws and Chemical Kinds.Nora Berenstain - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (4):631-647.
    Contingentism, generally contrasted with law necessitarianism, is the view that the laws of nature are contingent. It is often coupled with the claim that their contingency is knowable a priori. This paper considers Bird's (2001, 2002, 2005, 2007) arguments for the thesis that, necessarily, salt dissolves in water; and it defends his view against Beebee's (2001) and Psillos's (2002) contingentist objections. A new contingentist objection is offered and several reasons for scepticism about its success are raised. It is concluded that (...)
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  9. added 2019-09-14
    What Humeans Should Say About Tied Best Systems.Christian Loew & Siegfried Jaag - 2020 - Analysis 80 (2):273-282.
    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 (...)
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  10. added 2019-09-08
    Are Non-Accidental Regularities a Cosmic Coincidence? Revisiting a Central Threat to Humean Laws.Aldo Filomeno - forthcoming - Synthese:1-1.
    If the laws of nature are as the Humean believes, it is an unexplained cosmic coincidence that the actual Humean mosaic is as extremely regular as it is. This is a strong and well-known objection to the Humean account of laws. Yet, as reasonable as this objection may seem, it is nowadays sometimes dismissed. The reason: its unjustified implicit assignment of equiprobability to each possible Humean mosaic; that is, its assumption of the principle of indifference, which has been attacked on (...)
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  11. added 2019-08-10
    Alien Worlds, Alien Laws, and the Humean Conceivability Argument.Lok‐Chi Chan, David Braddon‐Mitchell & Andrew James Latham - 2020 - Ratio 33 (1):1-13.
    Monism is our name for a range of views according to which the connection between dispositions and their categorical bases is intimate and necessary, or on which there are no categorical bases at all. In contrast, Dualist views hold that the connection between dispositions and their categorical bases is distant and contingent. This paper is a defence of Monism against an influential conceivability argument in favour of Dualism. The argument suggests that the apparent possibility of causal behaviour coming apart from (...)
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  12. added 2019-07-22
    Hume and the Laws of Nature.Michael Jacovides - manuscript
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  13. added 2019-06-07
    Stable Regularities Without Governing Laws?Aldo Filomeno - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 66:186-197.
    Can stable regularities be explained without appealing to governing laws or any other modal notion? In this paper, I consider what I will call a ‘Humean system’—a generic dynamical system without guiding laws—and assess whether it could display stable regularities. First, I present what can be interpreted as an account of the rise of stable regularities, following from Strevens [2003], which has been applied to explain the patterns of complex systems (such as those from meteorology and statistical mechanics). Second, since (...)
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  14. added 2019-05-02
    Berkeley’s Best System: An Alternative Approach to Laws of Nature.Walter Ott - 2019 - Journal of Modern Philosophy 1 (1):4.
    Contemporary Humeans treat laws of nature as statements of exceptionless regularities that function as the axioms of the best deductive system. Such ‘Best System Accounts’ marry realism about laws with a denial of necessary connections among events. I argue that Hume’s predecessor, George Berkeley, offers a more sophisticated conception of laws, equally consistent with the absence of powers or necessary connections among events in the natural world. On this view, laws are not statements of regularities but the most general rules (...)
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  15. added 2019-04-22
    Is It Time for a Nietzschean Genealogy of Laws of Nature?: Walter Ott, Lydia Patton : Laws of Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, X+264pp, $65 HB. [REVIEW]Jason Winning - 2019 - Metascience 28 (2):269-271.
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  16. added 2018-07-12
    Humean Laws, Explanatory Circularity, and the Aim of Scientific Explanation.Chris Dorst - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (10):2657-2679.
    One of the main challenges confronting Humean accounts of natural law is that Humean laws appear to be unable to play the explanatory role of laws in scientific practice. The worry is roughly that if the laws are just regularities in the particular matters of fact (as the Humean would have it), then they cannot also explain the particular matters of fact, on pain of circularity. Loewer (2012) has defended Humeanism, arguing that this worry only arises if we fail to (...)
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  17. added 2018-06-15
    Humeanism and Exceptions in the Fundamental Laws of Physics.Billy Wheeler - 2017 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 21 (3):317-337.
    It has been argued that the fundamental laws of physics do not face a ‘problem of provisos’ equivalent to that found in other scientific disciplines (Earman, Roberts and Smith 2002) and there is only the appearance of exceptions to physical laws if they are confused with differential equations of evolution type (Smith 2002). In this paper I argue that even if this is true, fundamental laws in physics still pose a major challenge to standard Humean approaches to lawhood, as they (...)
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  18. added 2018-06-05
    Metaphysics of the Principle of Least Action.Vladislav Terekhovich - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 62:189-201.
    Despite the importance of the variational principles of physics, there have been relatively few attempts to consider them for a realistic framework. In addition to the old teleological question, this paper continues the recent discussion regarding the modal involvement of the principle of least action and its relations with the Humean view of the laws of nature. The reality of possible paths in the principle of least action is examined from the perspectives of the contemporary metaphysics of modality and Leibniz's (...)
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  19. added 2018-06-03
    Making Best Systems Best for Us.Siegfried Jaag & Christian Loew - 2018 - Synthese:1-26.
    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 (...)
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  20. added 2018-05-23
    Nomothetic Explanation and Humeanism About Laws of Nature.Harjit Bhogal - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.
    Humeanism about laws of nature — the view that the laws reduce to the Humean mosaic — is a popular view, but currently existing versions face powerful objections. The non-supervenience objection, the non-fundamentality objection and the explanatory circularity objection have all been thought to cause problems for the Humean. However, these objections share a guiding thought — they are all based on the idea that there is a certain kind of divergence between the practice of science and the metaphysical picture (...)
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  21. added 2017-02-03
    On Natural Selection and Hume's Second Problem.Armando Aranda-Anzaldo - 1998 - Evolution and Cognition 4 (2):156-172.
    David Hume's famous riddle of induction implies a second problem related to the question of whether the laws and principles of nature might change in the course of time. Claims have been made that modern developments in physics and astrophysics corroborate the translational invariance of the laws of physics in time. However, the appearance of a new general principle of nature, which might not be derivable from the known laws of physics, or that might actually be a non-physical one (this (...)
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  22. added 2017-01-23
    A Priori Causal Laws.Darren Bradley - 2017 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 60 (4):358-370.
    Sober and Elgin defend the claim that there are a priori causal laws in biology. Lange and Rosenberg take issue with this on Humean grounds, among others. I will argue that Sober and Elgin don’t go far enough – there are a priori causal laws in many sciences. Furthermore, I will argue that this thesis is compatible with a Humean metaphysics and an empiricist epistemology.
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  23. added 2016-10-19
    Minimal Anti-Humeanism.Harjit Bhogal - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (3):447-460.
    There is a tension in our theorizing about laws of nature: our practice of using and reasoning with laws of nature suggests that laws are universal generalizations, but if laws are universal generalizations then we face the problem of explanatory circularity. In this paper I elucidate this tension and show how it motivates a view of laws that I call Minimal Anti-Humeanism. This view says that the laws are the universal generalizations that are not grounded in their instances. I argue (...)
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  24. added 2016-08-16
    What Would Hume Say? Regularities, Laws, and Mechanisms.Holly Andersen - 2017 - In Phyllis Ilari & Stuart Glennan (eds.), Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanistic Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 157-168.
    This chapter examines the relationship between laws and mechanisms as approaches to characterising generalizations and explanations in science. I give an overview of recent historical discussions where laws failed to satisfy stringent logical criteria, opening the way for mechanisms to be investigated as a way to explain regularities in nature. This followed by a critical discussion of contemporary debates about the role of laws versus mechanisms in describing versus explaining regularities. I conclude by offering new arguments for two roles for (...)
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  25. added 2015-11-14
    What a Structuralist Theory of Properties Could Not Be.Nora Berenstain - 2016 - In Anna Marmodoro & David Yates (ed.), The Metaphysics of Relations. OUP. Oxford University Press.
    Causal structuralism is the view that, for each natural, non-mathematical, non-Cambridge property, there is a causal profile that exhausts its individual essence. On this view, having a property’s causal profile is both necessary and sufficient for being that property. It is generally contrasted with the Humean or quidditistic view of properties, which states that having a property’s causal profile is neither necessary nor sufficient for being that property, and with the double-aspect view, which states that causal profile is necessary but (...)
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  26. added 2015-06-22
    What the Humean Should Say About Entanglement.Harjit Bhogal & Zee Perry - 2017 - Noûs 51 (1):74-94.
    Tim Maudlin has influentially argued that Humeanism about laws of nature stands in conflict with quantum mechanics. Specifically Humeanism implies the principle Separability: the complete physical state of a world is determined by the intrinsic physical state of each space-time point. Maudlin argues Separability is violated by the entangled states posited by QM. We argue that Maudlin only establishes that a stronger principle, which we call Strong Separability, is in tension with QM. Separability is not in tension with QM. Moreover, (...)
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  27. added 2015-03-03
    Laws of Nature and the Reality of the Wave Function.Mauro Dorato - 2015 - Synthese 192 (10):3179-3201.
    In this paper I review three different positions on the wave function, namely: nomological realism, dispositionalism, and configuration space realism by regarding as essential their capacity to account for the world of our experience. I conclude that the first two positions are committed to regard the wave function as an abstract entity. The third position will be shown to be a merely speculative attempt to derive a primitive ontology from a reified mathematical space. Without entering any discussion about nominalism, I (...)
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  28. added 2015-01-05
    The Modal Status of Laws: In Defence of a Hybrid View.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2015 - Philosophical Quarterly 65 (260):509-528.
    Three popular views regarding the modal status of the laws of nature are discussed: Humean Supervenience, nomic necessitation, and scientific/dispositional essentialism. These views are examined especially with regard to their take on the apparent modal force of laws and their ability to explain that modal force. It will be suggested that none of the three views, at least in their strongest form, can be maintained if some laws are metaphysically necessary, but others are metaphysically contingent. Some reasons for thinking that (...)
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  29. added 2014-07-31
    No Work For a Theory of Universals.M. Eddon & Christopher J. G. Meacham - 2015 - In Jonathan Schaffer & Barry Loewer (eds.), A Companion to David Lewis. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 116-137.
    Several variants of Lewis's Best System Account of Lawhood have been proposed that avoid its commitment to perfectly natural properties. There has been little discussion of the relative merits of these proposals, and little discussion of how one might extend this strategy to provide natural property-free variants of Lewis's other accounts, such as his accounts of duplication, intrinsicality, causation, counterfactuals, and reference. We undertake these projects in this paper. We begin by providing a framework for classifying and assessing the variants (...)
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  30. added 2014-07-14
    Humean Scientific Explanation.Elizabeth Miller - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1311-1332.
    In a recent paper, Barry Loewer attempts to defend Humeanism about laws of nature from a charge that Humean laws are not adequately explanatory. Central to his defense is a distinction between metaphysical and scientific explanations: even if Humeans cannot offer further metaphysical explanations of particular features of their “mosaic,” that does not preclude them from offering scientific explanations of these features. According to Marc Lange, however, Loewer’s distinction is of no avail. Defending a transitivity principle linking scientific explanantia to (...)
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  31. added 2014-03-09
    Where No Mind Has Gone Before: Exploring Laws in Distant and Lonely Worlds.Matthew H. Slater & Chris Haufe - 2009 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (3):265-276.
    Do the laws of nature supervene on ordinary, non-nomic matters of fact? Lange's criticism of Humean supervenience (HS) plays a key role in his account of natural laws. Though we are sympathetic to his account, we remain unconvinced by his criticism. We focus on his thought experiment involving a world containing nothing but a lone proton and argue that it does not cast sufficient doubt on HS. In addition, we express some concern about locating the lawmakers in an ontology of (...)
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  32. added 2014-03-06
    Lange on Essentialism, Counterfactuals, and Explanation.Toby Handfield - 2005 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (1):81 – 85.
    Marc Lange objects to scientific essentialists that they can give no better account of the counterfactual invariance of laws than Humeans. While conceding this point succeeds ad hominem against some essentialists, I show that it does not undermine essentialism in general. Moreover, Lange's alternative account of the relation between laws and counterfactuals is - with minor modification - compatible with essentialism.
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  33. added 2013-12-16
    Concepts of Law of Nature.Brendan Shea - 2011 - Dissertation, University of Illinois
    Over the past 50 years, there has been a great deal of philosophical interest in laws of nature, perhaps because of the essential role that laws play in the formulation of, and proposed solutions to, a number of perennial philosophical problems. For example, many have thought that a satisfactory account of laws could be used to resolve thorny issues concerning explanation, causation, free-will, probability, and counterfactual truth. Moreover, interest in laws of nature is not constrained to metaphysics or philosophy of (...)
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  34. added 2013-10-01
    Ontic Structural Realism and Modality.Nora Berenstain & James Ladyman - 2012 - In Elaine Landry & Dean Rickles (eds.), Structural Realism: Structure, Object, and Causality. Springer.
    There is good reason to believe that scientific realism requires a commitment to the objective modal structure of the physical world. Causality, equilibrium, laws of nature, and probability all feature prominently in scientific theory and explanation, and each one is a modal notion. If we are committed to the content of our best scientific theories, we must accept the modal nature of the physical world. But what does the scientific realist’s commitment to physical modality require? We consider whether scientific realism (...)
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  35. added 2013-07-25
    Can Bare Dispositions Explain Categorical Regularities?Tyler Hildebrand - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 167 (3):569-584.
    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 (...)
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  36. added 2013-02-20
    A Critique of Humean and Anti-Humean Metaphysics of Cause and Law - Final Version.Benjamin Smart - manuscript
    Metaphysicians play an important role in our understanding of the universe. In recent years, physicists have focussed on finding accurate mathematical formalisms of the evolution of our physical system - if a metaphysician can uncover the metaphysical underpinnings of these formalisms; that is, why these formalisms seem to consistently map the universe, then our understanding of the world and the things in it is greatly enhanced. Science, then, plays a very important role in our project, as the best scientific formalisms (...)
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  37. added 2013-01-02
    Half-Hearted Humeanism.Aaron Segal - 2015 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 9:262-305.
    Many contemporary philosophers endorse the Humean-Lewisian Denial of Absolutely Necessary Connections (‘DANC’). Among those philosophers, many deny all or part of the Humean-Lewisian package of views about causation and laws. I argue that they maintain an inconsistent set of views. DANC entails that (1) causal properties and relations are, with a few possible exceptions, always extrinsic to their bearers, (2) nomic properties and relations are, with a few possible exceptions, always extrinsic to their bearers, and (3) causal and nomic properties (...)
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  38. added 2012-10-23
    Tooley’s Account of the Necessary Connection Between Law and Regularity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 166 (1):33-43.
    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 (...)
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  39. added 2012-10-12
    Necessary Laws.Max Kistler - 2005 - In Jan Faye, Paul Needham, Uwe Scheffler & Max Urchs (eds.), Nature’s Principles. Springer. pp. 201-227.
    In the first part of this paper, I argue against the view that laws of nature are contingent, by attacking a necessary condition for its truth within the framework of a conception of laws as relations between universals. I try to show that there is no independent reason to think that universals have an essence independent of their nomological properties. However, such a non-qualitative essence is required to make sense of the idea that different laws link the same universals in (...)
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  40. added 2012-03-28
    Dispositional Essentialism and the Laws of Nature.Barbara Vetter - 2012 - In Alexander Bird, Brian Ellis & Howard Sankey (eds.), Properties, Powers, and Structures: Issues in the Metaphysics of Realism. Routledge.
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  41. added 2009-04-11
    Humean Reductionism About Laws of Nature.Ned Hall - manuscript
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  42. added 2008-12-31
    Humean Dispositionalism.Toby Handfield - 2008 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (1):113-126.
    Humean metaphysics is characterized by a rejection of necessary connections between distinct existences. Dispositionalists claim that there are basic causal powers. The existence of such properties is widely held to be incompatible with the Humean rejection of necessary connections. In this paper I present a novel theory of causal powers that vindicates the dispositionalist claim that causal powers are basic, without embracing brute necessary connections. The key assumptions of the theory are that there are natural types of causal processes, and (...)
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