On the possibility of stable regularities without fundamental laws

Dissertation, Autonomous University of Barcelona (2014)
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This doctoral dissertation investigates the notion of physical necessity. Specifically, it studies whether it is possible to account for non-accidental regularities without the standard assumption of a pre-existent set of governing laws. Thus, it takes side with the so called deflationist accounts of laws of nature, like the humean or the antirealist. The specific aim is to complement such accounts by providing a missing explanation of the appearance of physical necessity. In order to provide an explanation, I recur to fields that have not been appealed to so far in discussions about the metaphysics of laws. Namely, I recur to complex systems’ theory, and to the foundations of statistical mechanics. The explanation proposed is inspired by how complex systems’ theory has elucidated the way patterns emerge, and by the probabilistic explanations of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. More specifically, this thesis studies how some constraints that make no direct reference to the dynamics can be a sufficient condition for obtaining in the long run, with high probability, stable regular behavior. I hope to show how certain metaphysical accounts of laws might benefit from the insights achieved in these other fields. According to the proposal studied in this thesis, some regularities are not accidental not in virtue of an underlying physical necessity. The non-accidental character of certain regular behavior is only due to its overwhelming stability. Thus, from this point of view the goal becomes to explain the stability of temporal patterns without assuming a set of pre-existent guiding laws. It is argued that the stability can be the result of a process of convergence to simpler and stable regularities from a more complex lower level. According to this project, if successful, there would be no need to postulate a (mysterious) intermediate category between logical necessity and pure contingency. Similarly, there would be no need to postulate a (mysterious) set of pre-existent governing laws. Part I of the thesis motivates part II, mostly by arguing why further explanation of the notions of physical necessity and governing laws should be welcomed (chapter 1), and by studying the plausibility of a lawless fundamental level (chapters 2 and 3). Given so, part II develops the explanation of formation of simpler and stable behavior from a more complex underlying level.

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Aldo Filomeno
Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso


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