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Making best systems best for us

Synthese 197 (6):2525-2550 (2018)

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  1. Laws of Nature.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2024 - In A. R. J. Fisher & Anna-Sofia Maurin (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Properties. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 337-346.
    Properties have an important role in specifying different views on laws of nature: virtually any position on laws will make some reference to properties, and some of the leading views even reduce laws to properties. This chapter will first outline what laws of nature are typically taken to be and then specify their connection to properties in more detail. We then move on to consider three different accounts of properties: natural, essential, and dispositional properties, and we shall see that different (...)
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  • Humeanism and laws of nature: scope and limits.Cristián Soto - 2021 - Revista de Humanidades de Valparaíso 17:145-167.
    Nomological Humeanism has developed into a research program encompassing several variations on a single theme, namely, the view that laws are statements about regularities that we find in nature. After briefly revisiting an early form of nomological Humeanism in Hume’s critique of the idea of necessary connection, this article critically examines Lewis’ two-fold approach based on Humean supervenience and the best system account. We shall point out three limits of nomological Humeanism, which are widely recognized in the literature: its inadequacy (...)
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  • How to be a powers theorist about functional laws, conservation laws and symmetries.Samuel Kimpton-Nye - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 180 (1):317-332.
    This paper defends an account of the laws of nature in terms of irreducibly modal properties (aka powers) from the threat posed by functional laws, conservation laws and symmetries. It thus shows how powers theorists can avoid ad hoc explanations and resist an inflated ontology of powers and governing laws. The key is to understand laws not as flowing from the essences of powers, as per Bird (2007), but as features of a description of how powers are possibly distributed, as (...)
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  • What Humeans should say about tied best systems.Christian Loew & Siegfried Jaag - 2019 - 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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  • The package deal account of laws and properties.Barry Loewer - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):1065-1089.
    This paper develops an account of the metaphysics of fundamental laws I call “the Package Deal Account ” that is a descendent of Lewis’ BSA but differs from it in a number of significant ways. It also rejects some elements of the metaphysics in which Lewis develops his BSA. First, Lewis proposed a metaphysical thesis about fundamental properties he calls “Humean Supervenience” according to which all fundamental properties are instantiated by points or point sized individuals and the only fundamental relations (...)
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  • Humean Laws and (Nested) Counterfactuals.Christian Loew & Siegfried Jaag - 2019 - 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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  • Are we free to make the laws?Christian Loew & Andreas Hüttemann - 2022 - Synthese 200 (1):1-16.
    Humeans about laws maintain that laws of nature are nothing over and above the complete distribution of non-modal, categorical properties in spacetime. ‘Humean compatibilists’ argue that if Humeanism about laws is true, then agents in a deterministic world can do otherwise than they are lawfully determined to do because of the distinctive nature of Humean laws. More specifically, they reject a central premise of the Consequence argument by maintaining that deterministic laws of nature are ‘up to us’. In this paper, (...)
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  • The oldest solution to the circularity problem for Humeanism about the laws of nature.David Mark Kovacs - 2020 - Synthese 198 (9):1-21.
    According to Humeanism about the laws, the laws of nature are nothing over and above certain kinds of regularities about particular facts. Humeanism has often been accused of circularity: according to scientific practice laws often explain their instances, but on the Humean view they also reduce to the mosaic, which includes those instances. In this paper I formulate the circularity problem in a way that avoids a number of controversial assumptions routinely taken for granted in the literature, and against which (...)
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  • Laws of Nature: Necessary and Contingent.Samuel Kimpton-Nye - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (4):875-895.
    This paper shows how a niche account of the metaphysics of laws of nature and physical properties—the Powers-BSA—can underpin both a sense in which the laws are metaphysically necessary and a sense in which it is true that the laws could have been different. The ability to reconcile entrenched disagreement should count in favour of a philosophical theory, so this paper constitutes a novel argument for the Powers-BSA by showing how it can reconcile disagreement about the laws’ modal status. This (...)
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  • A puzzle about laws and explanation.Siegfried Jaag - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):6085-6102.
    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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  • Non‐Humean theories of natural necessity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (5):e12662.
    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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  • 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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  • What Everyone Should Say about Symmetries.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2019 - Philosophy of Science 86 (5):1284-1294.
    The laws of nature have an internal explanatory structure. This leads to interesting questions for metaphysicians of laws. What is the nature of this explanation? Marc Lange has recently argued in favor of metalaws: higher-order laws governing other laws, of which symmetry principles may be an example. Lange argues that his view, unlike its competitors, can make sense of the explanatory power of symmetries. I agree with Lange about the explanatory structure of laws but disagree with him about the nature (...)
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  • Breaking the explanatory circle.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (2):533-557.
    Humeans are often accused of positing laws which fail to explain or are involved in explanatory circularity. Here, I will argue that these arguments are confused, but not because of anything to do with Humeanism: rather, they rest on false assumptions about causal explanation. I’ll show how these arguments can be neatly sidestepped if one takes on two plausible commitments which are motivated independently of Humeanism: first, that laws don’t directly feature in scientific explanation and second, the view that explanation (...)
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  • The Humean pragmatic turn and the case for revisionary best systems accounts.Toby Friend - 2022 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 12 (1):1-26.
    Lewis’s original Best Systems Account of laws was not motivated much by pragmatics. But recent commentary on his general approach to laws has taken a ‘pragmatic turn’. This was initiated by Hall’s defence against the charge of ‘ratbag idealism’ which maintained that best systems accounts should be admired rather than criticised for the inherent pragmatism behind their choice of desiderata for what counts as ‘best’. Emboldened by Hall’s pragmatic turn, recent commentators have proposed the addition of pragmatically motivated desiderata to (...)
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  • Why do the Laws Support Counterfactuals?Chris Dorst - 2020 - Erkenntnis 87 (2):545-566.
    This paper aims to explain why the laws of nature are held fixed in counterfactual reasoning. I begin by highlighting three salient features of counterfactual reasoning: it is conservative, nomically guided, and it uses hindsight. I then present a rationale for our engagement in counterfactual reasoning that aims to make sense of these features. In particular, I argue that counterfactual reasoning helps us evaluate the evidential relations between unanticipated pieces of evidence and various hypotheses of interest about the history of (...)
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  • Why do the Laws Support Counterfactuals?Chris Dorst - 2020 - Erkenntnis 87 (2):545-566.
    This paper aims to explain why the laws of nature are held fixed in counterfactual reasoning. I begin by highlighting three salient features of counterfactual reasoning: it is conservative, nomically guided, and it uses hindsight. I then present a rationale for our engagement in counterfactual reasoning that aims to make sense of these features. In particular, I argue that counterfactual reasoning helps us evaluate the evidential relations between unanticipated pieces of evidence and various hypotheses of interest about the history of (...)
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  • There is no measurement problem for Humeans.Chris Dorst - 2021 - Noûs 57 (2):263-289.
    The measurement problem concerns an apparent conflict between the two fundamental principles of quantum mechanics, namely the Schrödinger equation and the measurement postulate. These principles describe inconsistent behavior for quantum systems in so-called "measurement contexts." Many theorists have thought that the measurement problem can only be resolved by proposing a mechanistic explanation of (genuine or apparent) wavefunction collapse that avoids explicit reference to "measurement." However, I argue here that the measurement problem dissolves if we accept Humeanism about laws of nature. (...)
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  • 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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  • Laws, melodies, and the paradox of predictability.Dorst Chris - 2022 - Synthese 200 (1):1-21.
    If the laws of nature are deterministic, then it seems possible that a Laplacean intelligence that knows the initial conditions and the laws would be able to accurately predict everything that will ever happen. However, it would be easy to construct a counterpredictive device that falsifies any revealed prediction about its future behavior. What would then occur if a Laplacean intelligence encountered a counterpredictive device? This is the paradox of predictability. A number of philosophers have proposed solutions to it, though (...)
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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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  • Induction and the Glue of the World.Harjit Bhogal - 2021 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (2):319-333.
    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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  • Operational theories as structural realism.Emily Adlam - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 94 (C):99-111.
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  • Productive Laws in Relativistic Spacetimes.Chris Dorst - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
    One of the most intuitive views about the metaphysics of laws of nature is Tim Maudlin's idea of a Fundamental Law of Temporal Evolution. So-called FLOTEs are primitive elements of the universe that produce later states from earlier states. While FLOTEs are at home in traditional Newtonian and non-relativistic quantum mechanical theories (not to mention our pre-theoretic conception of the world), I consider here whether they can be made to work with relativity. In particular, shifting to relativistic spacetimes poses two (...)
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  • Laws of Physics.Eddy Keming Chen - manuscript
    Despite its apparent complexity, our world seems to be governed by simple laws of physics. This volume provides a philosophical introduction to such laws. I explain how they are connected to some of the central issues in philosophy, such as ontology, possibility, explanation, induction, counterfactuals, time, determinism, and fundamentality. I suggest that laws are fundamental facts that govern the world by constraining its physical possibilities. I examine three hallmarks of laws--simplicity, exactness, and objectivity--and discuss whether and how they may be (...)
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  • Does the Best System Need the Past Hypothesis?Chris Dorst - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
    Many philosophers sympathetic with a Humean understanding of laws of nature have thought that, in the final analysis, the fundamental laws will include not only the traditional dynamical equations, but also two additional principles: the Past Hypothesis and the Statistical Postulate. The former says that the universe began in a particular very-low-entropy macrostate M(0), and the latter posits a uniform probability distribution over the microstates compatible with M(0). Such a view is arguably vindicated by the orthodox Humean Best System Account (...)
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  • Naturalism, Functionalism and Chance: Not a Best Fit for the Humean.Alison Fernandes - forthcoming - In Michael Hicks, Siegfried Jaag & Christian Loew (eds.), Humean Laws for Human Agents.
    How should we give accounts of scientific modal relations? According to the Humean, we should do so by considering the role of such relations in our lives and scientific theorizing. For example, to give a Humean account of chance, we need to identity a non-modal relation that can play the ‘role’ of chance—typically that of guiding credences and scientifically explaining events. Defenders of Humean accounts claim to be uniquely well placed to meet this aim. Humean chances are objective, and so (...)
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  • Are Humean Laws Flukes?Barry Loewer - forthcoming - In Michael Townsen Hicks, Siegfried Jaag & Christian Loew (eds.), Humean Laws for Human Agents. Oxford University Press.
    It has been argued contra Humean accounts of scientific laws that on Humean accounts laws are flukes since they are merely true generalizations and it would be an accident or a fluke for a generalization to obtain unless there was a non-Humean law "backing" it. This paper argues that this kind of objection is mistaken. It goes on to describe an account of laws called "the Package Deal Account" that is a descendent of Lewis' BSA on which it is not (...)
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  • The Ideology of Pragmatic Humeanism.Tyler Hildebrand - forthcoming - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
    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 (...)
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  • Ceteris Paribus Laws.Alexander Reutlinger, Gerhard Schurz, Andreas Hüttemann & Siegfried Jaag - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    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.) (...)
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  • From Nomic Humeanism to Normative Relativism.Veronica Gomez Sanchez - 2023 - Philosophical Perspectives 36 (1):118-139.
    It is commonly thought that that the best system account of lawhood ((Mill (1843), Ramsey (1978)[fp. 1928], Lewis (1973)) makes available a nice explanation for why laws are ‘distinctively appropriate targets of scientific inquiry’ (Hall, 2015). The explanation takes the following general form: laws are especially valuable for agents like us because they efficiently encode a lot of valuable (non-nomic) information in a tractable format. The goal of this paper is to challenge this style of explanation: I argue that the (...)
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  • Humean Laws of Nature: The End of the Good Old Days.Craig Callender - unknown
    I show how the two great Humean ways of understanding laws of nature, projectivism and systems theory, have unwittingly reprised developments in metaethics over the past century. This demonstration helps us explain and understand trends in both literatures. It also allows work on laws to “leap- frog” over the birth of many new positions, the nomic counterparts of new theories in metaethics. However, like leap-frogging from agriculture to the internet age, it’s hardly clear that we’ve landed in a good place. (...)
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  • The Problem of Radical Freedom.Andreas Hüttemann - 2022 - In Anna Marmodoro, Christopher Austin & Andrea Roselli (eds.), Powers, Time and Free Will. Springer. pp. 185-198.
    Whether or not we are able to do x is on many philosophical accounts of our moral practice relevant for whether we are responsible for not doing x or for being excusable for not having done x. In this paper I will examine how such accounts are affected by whether a Humean or non-Humean account of laws is presupposed. More particularly, I will argue that (on one interpretation) Humean conceptions of laws, while able to avoid the consequence argument, run into (...)
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  • Revaluing Laws of Nature in Secularized Science.Eli I. Lichtenstein - 2022 - In Yemima Ben-Menahem (ed.), Rethinking the Concept of Law of Nature: Natural Order in the Light of Contemporary Science. Springer. pp. 347-377.
    Discovering laws of nature was a way to worship a law-giving God, during the Scientific Revolution. So why should we consider it worthwhile now, in our own more secularized science? For historical perspective, I examine two competing early modern theological traditions that related laws of nature to different divine attributes, and their secular legacy in views ranging from Kant and Nietzsche to Humean and ‘governing’ accounts in recent analytic metaphysics. Tracing these branching offshoots of ethically charged God-concepts sheds light on (...)
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  • How to be Humean about symmetries.Toby Friend - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    I describe three extant attempts to identify the global external symmetries within a Humean framework with theorems of some or other deductive systematization of the world, respectively, the best system, a meta-best system and a maximally simple system. Each has merits, but also serious flaws. Instead, I propose a view of global external symmetries as consequences of the structure of Humean-consistent world-making relations.
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