Humean laws, explanatory circularity, and the aim of scientific explanation

Philosophical Studies 176 (10):2657-2679 (2019)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

One of the main challenges confronting Humean accounts of natural law is that Humean laws appear to be unable to play the explanatory role of laws in scientific practice. The worry is roughly that if the laws are just regularities in the particular matters of fact (as the Humean would have it), then they cannot also explain the particular matters of fact, on pain of circularity. Loewer (2012) has defended Humeanism, arguing that this worry only arises if we fail to distinguish between scientific and metaphysical explanations. However, Lange (2013, 2018) has argued that scientific and metaphysical explanations are linked by a transitivity principle, which would undercut Loewer's defense and re-ignite the circularity worry for the Humean. I argue here that the Humean has antecedent reasons to doubt that there are any systematic connections between scientific and metaphysical explanations. The reason is that the Humean should think that scientific and metaphysical explanation have disparate aims, and therefore that neither form of explanation is beholden to the other in its pronouncements about what explains what. Consequently, the Humean has every reason to doubt that Lange's transitivity principle obtains.

Similar books and articles

Humean laws and circular explanation.Michael Townsen Hicks & Peter van Elswyk - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (2):433-443.
Nomothetic Explanation and Humeanism about Laws of Nature.Harjit Bhogal - 2020 - In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, volume 12. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 164–202.
Humean scientific explanation.Elizabeth Miller - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1311-1332.
Grounding, scientific explanation, and Humean laws.Marc Lange - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 164 (1):255-261.
Humean laws and explanation.Dan Marshall - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (12):3145-3165.
Minimal Anti-Humeanism.Harjit Bhogal - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (3):447-460.
Laws, explanation, governing, and generation.Barry Ward - 2007 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (4):537 – 552.
Is the Humean defeated by induction?Benjamin T. H. Smart - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (2):319-332.
What Everyone Should Say about Symmetries.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2019 - Philosophy of Science 86 (5):1284-1294.
Scientific laws and scientific explanations: A differentiated typology.Igor Hanzel - 2008 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 15 (3):323-344.
Can Primitive Laws Explain?Tyler Hildebrand - 2013 - Philosophers' Imprint 13:1-15.

Analytics

Added to PP
2018-07-12

Downloads
850 (#14,871)

6 months
137 (#19,502)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Chris Dorst
University of Florida

Citations of this work

Humeanism about laws of nature.Harjit Bhogal - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (8):1-10.
Nomothetic Explanation and Humeanism about Laws of Nature.Harjit Bhogal - 2020 - In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, volume 12. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 164–202.
Lawful Persistence.David Builes & Trevor Teitel - 2022 - Philosophical Perspectives 36 (1):5-30.
A Humean Non-Humeanism.David Builes - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (3):1031-1048.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Depth: An Account of Scientific Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The metaphysics within physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Philosophical papers.David Kellogg Lewis - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
What is a Law of Nature?D. M. Armstrong - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Sydney Shoemaker.

View all 71 references / Add more references