Nomothetic Explanation and Humeanism about Laws of Nature

In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, volume 12. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 164–202 (2020)
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Abstract

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 suggested by Humeanism. I suggest that the Humean can respond to these objections not by rejecting this divergence, but by arguing that is appropriate. In particular the Humean can, in the spirit of Loewer (2012), distinguish between scientific and metaphysical explanation — this is motivated by differing aims of explanation in science and metaphysics. And they can further leverage this into distinctions between scientific and metaphysical fundamentality and scientific and metaphysical possibility. We can use these distinctions to respond to the objections that the Humean faces.

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Harjit Bhogal
University of Maryland, College Park

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