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Powerful Properties, Powerless Laws

In Jonathan D. Jacobs (ed.), Causal Powers. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. pp. 38-53 (2017)

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  1. Governing Without A Fundamental Direction of Time: Minimal Primitivism About Laws of Nature.Eddy Keming Chen & Sheldon Goldstein - forthcoming - In Yemima Ben-Menahem (ed.), Rethinking Laws of Nature. Springer.
    The Great Divide in metaphysical debates about laws of nature is between Humeans who think that laws merely describe the distribution of matter and non-Humeans who think that laws govern it. The metaphysics can place demands on the proper formulations of physical theories. It is sometimes assumed that the governing view requires a fundamental / intrinsic direction of time: to govern, laws must be dynamical, producing later states of the world from earlier ones, in accord with the fundamental direction of (...)
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  • Humean Nomic Essentialism.Harjit Bhogal & Zee R. Perry - forthcoming - Noûs.
    Humeanism -- the idea that there are no necessary connections between distinct existences -- and Nomic Essentialism -- the idea that properties essentially play the nomic roles that they do -- are two of the most important and influential positions in the metaphysics of science. Traditionally, it has been thought that these positions were incompatible competitors. We disagree. We argue that there is an attractive version of Humeanism that captures the idea that, for example, mass essentially plays the role that (...)
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  • Could Charge and Mass Be Universals?Marian J. R. Gilton - 2021 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (3):624-644.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  • A Puzzle About Laws and Explanation.Siegfried Jaag - forthcoming - Synthese:1-18.
    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 (...)
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  • No Laws and (Thin) Powers in, No (Governing) Laws Out.Stavros Ioannidis, Vassilis Livanios & Stathis Psillos - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (1):1-26.
    Non-Humean accounts of the metaphysics of nature posit either laws or powers in order to account for natural necessity and world-order. We argue that such monistic views face fundamental problems. On the one hand, neo-Aristotelians cannot give unproblematic power-based accounts of the functional laws among quantities offered by physical theories, as well as of the place of conservation laws and symmetries in a lawless ontology; in order to capture these characteristics, commitment to governing laws is indispensable. On the other hand, (...)
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  • 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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  • Humeanism About Laws of Nature.Harjit Bhogal - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (8):1-10.
    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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  • Mentaculus Laws and Metaphysics.Heather Demarest - 2019 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 23 (3):387--399.
    The laws of nature are central to our understanding of the world. And while there is often broad agreement about the technical formulations of the laws, there can be sharp disagreement about the metaphysical nature of the laws. For instance, the Newtonian laws of nature can be stated and analyzed by appealing to a set of possible worlds. Yet, some philosophers argue the worlds are mere notational devices, while others take them to be robust, concrete entities in their own right. (...)
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  • Laws of Nature, Explanation, and Semantic Circularity.Erica Shumener - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3):787-815.
    Humeans and anti-Humeans agree that laws of nature should explain scientifically particular matters of fact. One objection to Humean accounts of laws contends that Humean laws cannot explain particular matters of fact because their explanations are harmfully circular. This article distinguishes between metaphysical and semantic characterizations of the circularity and argues for a new semantic version of the circularity objection. The new formulation suggests that Humean explanations are harmfully circular because the content of the sentences being explained is part of (...)
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  • Individuation and Explanation: A Problem for Dispositionalism.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (12):3863-3883.
    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. (...)
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  • Towards a Best Predictive System Account of Laws of Nature.Chris Dorst - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3):877-900.
    This article argues for a revised best system account of laws of nature. David Lewis’s original BSA has two main elements. On the one hand, there is the Humean base, which is the totality of particular matters of fact that obtain in the history of the universe. On the other hand, there is what I call the ‘nomic formula’, which is a particular operation that gets applied to the Humean base in order to output the laws of nature. My revised (...)
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  • Dynamic Humeanism.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2018 - 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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  • Better Best Systems – Too Good To Be True.Marius Backmann & Alexander Reutlinger - 2014 - Dialectica 68 (3):375-390.
    Craig Callender, Jonathan Cohen and Markus Schrenk have recently argued for an amended version of the best system account of laws – the better best system account (BBSA). This account of lawhood is supposed to account for laws in the special sciences, among other desiderata. Unlike David Lewis's original best system account of laws, the BBSA does not rely on a privileged class of natural predicates, in terms of which the best system is formulated. According to the BBSA, a contingently (...)
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  • 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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  • Dispositional Essentialism and the Grounding of Natural Modality.Siegfried Jaag - 2014 - Philosophers' Imprint 14.
    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.
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  • Laws of Nature and Free Will.Pedro Merlussi - 2017 - Dissertation, Durham University
    This thesis investigates the conceptual relationship between laws of nature and free will. In order to clarify the discussion, I begin by distinguishing several questions with respect to the nature of a law: i) do the laws of nature cover everything that happens? ii) are they deterministic? iii) can there be exceptions to universal and deterministic laws? iv) do the laws of nature govern everything in the world? In order to answer these questions I look at three widely endorsed accounts (...)
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  • Humean Laws in an unHumean World.Samuel Kimpton-nye - 2017 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 3 (2):129-147.
    I argue that an unHumean ontology of irreducibly dispositional properties might be fruitfully combined with what has typically been thought of as a Humean account of laws, namely, the best-system account, made popular by David Lewis (e.g., 1983, 1986, 1994). In this paper I provide the details of what I argue is the most defensible account of Humean laws in an unHumean world. This package of views has the benefits of upholding scientific realism while doing without any suspect metaphysical entities (...)
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  • Dynamic Humeanism.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axx006.
    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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  • What Everyone Should Say About Symmetries.Michael Townsen Hicks - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
    The laws of physics have an interesting internal explanatory structure. Some principles explain others; some constraints fall out of the dynamic equations, and others help determine them. This leads to interesting, and non-trivial, questions for metaphysicians of laws. What sort of explanation is this? Which principles are explananda, and which explanandum? In a recent and insightful series of papers, Marc Lange has discussed these questions in detail, with a focus on the explanatory priority of symmetry principles and their associated conservation (...)
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  • Naturalness Constraints on Best Systems Accounts of Laws.Tyler Hildebrand - 2019 - Ratio 32 (3):163-172.
    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 (...)
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  • Scientific Practice and the Epistemology of Governing Laws.Tyler Hildebrand - 2019 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 5 (2):174-188.
    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 (...)
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