University of Cambridge > > CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar > Laws unconstrained: against minimal primitivism about laws of nature

Laws unconstrained: against minimal primitivism about laws of nature

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Jacob Stegenga.

Recently a number of authors (Adlam (2022), Chen and Goldstein (2022), building on the views of Mauldin (2007) and Schaffer (2016)) have argued that laws of nature should be seen as primitive modal constraints on physical reality. The idea is that laws are primitives which make some things necessary, and we as philosophers should refrain from speculating more deeply about their nature. We should, nonetheless, speculate enough to deny both Humean attempts to reduce laws to non-modal facts and Dispositionalist attempts to reduce global laws to locally instantiated modal properties. The view aims to retain the explanatory power of governing laws while divorcing them from any connections to dodgy metaphysics of properties or time which might not be supported by future (or current) physics.

In this talk, I argue that this primitive proposal faces numerous difficulties. By rejecting any account of the structure of laws, the view makes it harder to see how laws play their distinctive roles in explanation and induction. By combining a metaphysically necessary connection between laws and their instances with a strident quietism about the nature of laws, the view makes metaphysical necessity even harder to understand. I conclude with some quite general remarks on the viability of primitivist or purely structuralist views of laws of nature and nomological modality.

This talk is part of the CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar series.

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