Special Sciences, Conspiracy and the Better Best System Account of Lawhood

Erkenntnis 73 (3):427 - 447 (2010)
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Abstract

An important obstacle to lawhood in the special sciences is the worry that such laws would require metaphysically extravagant conspiracies among fundamental particles. How, short of conspiracy, is this possible? In this paper we'll review a number of strategies that allow for the projectibility of special science generalizations without positing outlandish conspiracies: non-Humean pluralism, classical MRL theories of laws, and Albert and Loewer's theory. After arguing that none of the above fully succeed, we consider the conspiracy problem through the lens of our preferred view of laws, an elaboration of the MRL view that we call the Better Best System (BBS) theory. BBS offers a picture on which, although all events supervene on a fundamental level, there is no one unique locus of projectibility; rather there are a large number of loci corresponding to the different areas (ecology, economics, solid-state chemistry, etc.) in which there are simple and strong generalizations to be made. While we expect that some amount of conspiracy-fear-inducing special science projectibility is inevitable given BBS, we'll argue that this is unobjectionable. It follows from BBS that the laws of any particular special or fundamental science amount to a proper subset of the laws. From this vantage point, the existence of projectible special science generalizations not guaranteed by the fundamental laws is not an occasion for conspiracy fantasies, but a predictable fact of life in a complex world

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Author Profiles

Craig Callender
University of California, San Diego
Jonathan Cohen
University of California, San Diego

Citations of this work

Making best systems best for us.Christian Loew & Siegfried Jaag - 2018 - Synthese 197 (6):2525-2550.
Emergent Chance.Christian List & Marcus Pivato - 2015 - Philosophical Review 124 (1):119-152.
Derivative Properties in Fundamental Laws.Michael Townsen Hicks & Jonathan Schaffer - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2).
Dynamic Humeanism.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (4):983-1007.

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References found in this work

On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Counterfactuals.David K. Lewis - 1973 - Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1973 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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