Laws of Nature, Explanation, and Semantic Circularity

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3):787-815 (2019)
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Abstract

Humeans and anti-Humeans agree that laws of nature should explain scientifically particular matters of fact. One objection to Humean accounts of laws contends that Humean laws cannot explain particular matters of fact because their explanations are harmfully circular. This article distinguishes between metaphysical and semantic characterizations of the circularity and argues for a new semantic version of the circularity objection. The new formulation suggests that Humean explanations are harmfully circular because the content of the sentences being explained is part of the content of the sentences doing the explaining. I describe the nature of partial content and demonstrate how this account of partial content renders Humean explanations ineffective while sparing anti-Humean explanations from the same fate. 1Introduction2Standard Formulations of the Circularity Charge3Humean Responses4Semantic Characterizations of the Circularity Worry 4.1Hempel and Oppenheim’s semantic circularity concern4.2A new version of the semantic circularity charge4.3Partial content as a guide to circularity5Humean Responses to the Semantic Circularity Charge 5.1Smuggling in metaphysics through the back door?5.2Do anti-Humean laws fare any better?5.3The over-generalization concern6ConclusionAppendix

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Erica Shumener
Syracuse University

Citations of this work

Non‐Humean theories of natural necessity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (5):e12662.
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Debunking Logical Ground: Distinguishing Metaphysics from Semantics.Michaela Markham McSweeney - 2020 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 6 (2):156-170.
A Humean Non-Humeanism.David Builes - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (3):1031-1048.

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