The oldest solution to the circularity problem for Humeanism about the laws of nature

Synthese 198 (9):1-21 (2020)
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Abstract

According to Humeanism about the laws, the laws of nature are nothing over and above certain kinds of regularities about particular facts. Humeanism has often been accused of circularity: according to scientific practice laws often explain their instances, but on the Humean view they also reduce to the mosaic, which includes those instances. In this paper I formulate the circularity problem in a way that avoids a number of controversial assumptions routinely taken for granted in the literature, and against which many extant responses are therefore ineffective. I then propose a solution that denies the alleged Humean commitment that laws are explained by their instances. The solution satisfies three desiderata that other solutions don’t: it provides independent motivation against the idea that Humean laws are explained by their instances; it specifies the sense in which Humean laws are nonetheless “nothing over and above” their instances; and it gives an alternative account of what does explain the laws, if not their instances. This solution, I will argue, is not only the simplest but also the oldest one: it appeals only to tools and theses whose first appearance predates the earliest statements of the circularity problem itself.

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David Mark Kovacs
Tel Aviv University

Citations of this work

Humeanism about laws of nature.Harjit Bhogal - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (8):1-10.
A Humean Non-Humeanism.David Builes - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (3):1031-1048.
The Governing Conception of Laws.Nina Emery - 2022 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 9.
The Power to Govern.Erica Shumener - 2022 - Philosophical Perspectives 36 (1):270-291.
Fundamentality and minimalist grounding laws.Joaquim Giannotti - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (9):2993-3017.

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