Super-Humeanism and physics: A merry relationship?

Synthese 199 (1-2):791-813 (2020)
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Abstract

Humeanism started life as a metaphysical program that could turn out to be false if our best physical theories were to postulate ontological features at odds with Humean ones. However, even if this has arguably already happened, Humeanism is still considered one of the strongest and most appealing metaphysical theories for describing the physical world. What is even more surprising is that a radical Humean thesis—Super-Humeanism—which posits an extremely parsimonious ontology including nothing more than propertyless matter points and their distance relations, is said by its proponents to follow from an attentive reading of our best physical theories. Given its close relationship with physics, Super-Humeans argue that their doctrine conforms to Scientific Realism, offers the ontology that best explains physics’ empirical evidence, and is a naturalistic theory. This paper investigates the strategies that Super-Humeans have adopted to defend these three claims and, more generally, its alleged closeness to physics. I will show that, contrary to what advocates of Super-Humeanism claim, some of its commitments have inevitably created a gap between itself and physics that is difficult to overcome. While it is laudable that Super-Humeans have adopted various strategies to close this gap, no strategy has yet fully succeeded.

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Vera Matarese
University of Bern

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References found in this work

Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1955 - Harvard University Press.
New Work for a Theory of Universals.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
Philosophical Papers.David Kellogg Lewis - 1983 - Oxford University Press.

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