Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Why Physics Can't Explain Everything

Mathias Frisch, Maryiand and Munich

Barry Loewer and David Albert have argued for a view on laws that is at once pragmatic (and takes nomic regularities are summaries of aspects of the Humean mosaic that are useful for beings like us) and 'imperialistic' or foundationalist. I argue in this paper that there is a deep tension between the two planks of the account and suggest that it is the pragmatism and not the foundationalism that is worth keeping.

Pragmatic Humeanism, Consistency and the Principal Principle

Carl Hoefer, Barcelona

In recent years Callender & Cohen have advocated a pragmatic Humean "Better Best Systems" approach to laws of nature, which explicitly embraces the possibility of multiple systems co-existing in peace, based on different vocabularies and dealing with different natural kinds. In my own work on objective chance, I have advocated a pragmatic Humean approach that also proposes that chance rules (or laws if you will) may exist at various ontological levels, with no special privilege granted to micro-level physical chances (if any such exist).

Recently our pragmatic Humean approaches have come under fire from Chris Meacham, who argues that if the world is certain ways, our prescriptions on chance will lead (via the Principal Principle)to contradictions. In my talk I will discuss Meacham's challenges, how pragmatic Humeans can respond to them, and more generally whether we should put some constraints on the ontologies and vocabularies involved in Best Systems theories of laws and/or chances.

Ramsey vs. Lewis on conditionals and causation

Helen Beebee, Birmingham

In this paper, I explore the prospects for a (very roughly sketched) broadly Pricean perspectivalist account of causation. The ingredient I add to the mix is the thought, familiar from Lewis and others, that causal claims express conditional relationships – except that here the relevant conditional is to be understood in Ramseyan, non-truth-apt terms rather than in terms of Lewis’s machinery of possible worlds. I argue that this approach is much better able than the standard counterfactual approach to account for the close connection between causation and inference.

Humeanism and Dispositionalism in Physics

Michael Esfeld, Lausanne

The paper sets out to make a case for a natural philosophy or naturalized metaphysics that treats physics and
metaphysics as inseparable. It examines how Humeanism and dispositionalism about laws of nature fare with respect to classical as well as quantum physics. In particular, I argue that, despite widespread claims to the contrary, Lewis' metaphysics of Humean supervenience is applicable to non-relativistic quantum mechanics and that its application even removes the charge of quidditism. However, this position faces considerable difficulties once physics abandons the assumption of a background system of geometrical relations unifying the world. Against this background, I indicate reasons to prefer dispositionalism to Humeanism.

Trouble with Properties for Better Best Systems

Markus Schrenk, Köln

In Lewis' original best system account, the mosaic of point-sized, intrinsic, quiddistic, perfectly natural, fundamental properties is the ultimate material on which everything else, laws of nature in particular, supervenes. While better best system competitions (BBSCs) for different, separate special science property sets aim to apply the same mechanism as Lewis's to get the laws from the distributions of properties (balancing simplicity, strength and fit) it is not so clear:

  1. which features properties of the special science have (they are clearly not fundamental, maybe not natural but also not-quiddistic, etc.),
  2. in which kind of entities they are instantiated (clearly not singular space-time points),
  3. how BBSCs deal with vague and extensionless properties,
  4. and what the boundaries are for the different sets of properties which BBSCs take as raw material for allegedly separate competitions.

This paper will show that (i) - (iv) are not easy to answer for (us) better best system advocates.

Building a Better System

Craig Callender, UCSD

In this talk I'll sketch the central motivating idea behind Humean approaches to lawhood, namely, that modality arises from bodies of knowledge, not the world (see, e.g., Putnam 1962). Keeping one's eyes firmly focused on this motivation is the key to developing so-called "system" approaches to lawhood. I'll claim that it will suggest particular ways of formulating the best system theory and also replies to recent criticisms. But it will also invite many open questions, such as why do creatures like us modalize at all?