Humeanism and laws of nature: scope and limits

Cristián Soto

Abstract


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 in view of physical theories, its explanatory circularity, and its purported anthropomorphism, all of which advocates of nomological Humeanism have attempted to overcome Humeanism (Jaag y Loew 2020, Loewer 2004 y Massimi 2018). Lastly, we will argue that nomological Humeanism fails to provide a suitable notion of modality for laws of nature. This latter issue continues to represent a live challenge for empiricism in the philosophy of physical laws.


Keywords


modality; supervenience; best system; necessity; contingency

References


Cohen, J., Callender, C. (2009). A Better Best System Account of Lawhood. Philosophical Studies, 145(1), 1-34. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-009-9389-3

Dorst, C. (2019). Towards a Best Predictive System Account of Laws of Nature. British Journal of Philosophy of Science, 70, 877-900. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axy016

Earman, J., Roberts, J. (2005a). Contact with the Nomic: A Challenge for Deniers of Humean Supervenience about Laws of Nature. Part I: Humean Supervenience. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 71(1), 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1933-1592.2005.tb00428.x

Earman, J., Roberts, J. (2005b). Contact with the Nomic: A Challenge for Deniers of Humean Supervenience about Laws of Nature. Part II: The Epistemological Argument for Humean Supervenience. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 71(2), 253-286. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1933-1592.2005.tb00428.x

Filomeno, A. (2019). Are Non-Accidental Regularities a Cosmic Coincidence? Revisiting a Central Threat to Humean Laws. Synthese, 198(6), 5205-5227. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-020-02564-9

Hume, D. (1978 [1739]). A Treatise of Human Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hume, D. (2000 [1748]). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Jaag, S., Loew, C. (2018). Making Best Systems Best for Us. Synthese, 197, 2525-2550. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-018-1829-1

Jaag, S., Loew, C. (2020). Why Defend Humean Supervenience? The Journal of Philosophy, 117(7), 387-406. https://doi.org/10.5840/jphil2020117723

Ladyman, J., Ross, D., Spurrett, D., Collier, J. (2007). Every Thing Must Go. Metaphysics Naturalized. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lange, M. (2000). Natural Laws in Scientific Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lange, M. (2009). Laws and Lawmakers: Science, Metaphysics, and the Laws of Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lewis, D. (1986). Philosophical Papers, Volume II. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lewis, D. (1994). Humean Supervenience Debugged. Mind, 103(412), 473-490. https://doi.org/10.1093/mind/103.412.473

Loewer, B. (2004). Humean Supervenience. En J. W. Carroll (ed.), Readings on Laws of Nature, pp. 176-206. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press.

Mackie, J. L. (1980). The Cement of the Universe: A Study of Causation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Massimi, M. (2018). A Perspectivalist Better Best System Account of Lawhood. En W. Ott y L. Patton (eds.), Laws of Nature, pp. 139-157. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Psillos, S. (2002). Causation and Explanation. London: Acumen.

Soto, C., Bueno, O. (2019). A Framework for an Inferential Conception of Physical Laws. Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology, 23(3), 423-444. https://doi.org/10.5007/1808-1711.2019v23n3p423

Soto, C., Rodríguez, P. (2019). Capacidades y leyes fenomenológicas: el disposicionalismo experimental. Revista de Filosofía, 76, 185-201. http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0718-43602019000200185

Soto, C. (2020a). Wigner, las leyes físicas y la efectividad de las matemáticas. Revista Colombiana de Filosofía de las Ciencias, 20(40), 93-127. https://doi.org/10.18270/rcfc.v20i40.3233

Soto, C. (2020b). Some Morals from the Physico-Mathematical Character of Scientific Laws. Trans/Form/Acao: Revista de Filosofía, 43(4), 65-88. https://doi.org/10.1590/0101-3173.2020.v43n4.04.p65

Woodward, J. (2003). Making Things Happen. A Theory of Causal Explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.




DOI: https://doi.org/10.22370/rhv2021iss17pp145-167

Copyright (c) 2021 Revista de Humanidades de Valparaíso

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.