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Newton's methodology meets Humean supervenience about laws of nature

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Earman and Roberts [2005a,b] have argued for Humean supervenience about laws of nature based on an argument from epistemic access. In rough outline, their argument relies on the claim that if Humean supervenience is false, then we cannot have any empirical evidence in favour of taking a proposition to be a law of nature as opposed to merely accidentally true. I argue that Newton’s methodology in the Principia provides a counterexample to their claim. In particular, I argue that the success or failure of chains of subjunctive reasoning is empirically accessible, and that this provides a way of gaining empirical evidence for or against a proposition being a law of nature (even under the assumption that Humean supervenience fails).

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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