Humean scientific explanation

Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1311-1332 (2015)
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Abstract
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 their metaphysical grounds, Lange argues that a charge of explanatory inadequacy resurfaces once this intuitive principle is in place. This paper surveys, on behalf of the Humean, three strategies for responding to Lange’s criticism. The ready availability of these strategies suggests that Lange’s argument may not bolster anti-Humean convictions, since the argument rests on premises that those not antecedently sharing these convictions may well reject. The three strategies also correspond to three interesting ways of thinking about relations of grounding linking Humean laws and their instances, all of which are consistent with theses of Humean supervenience, and some of which have been heretofore overlooked.
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First archival date: 2014-08-22
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