Humeanism and Exceptions in the Fundamental Laws of Physics

Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 21 (3):317-337 (2017)
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It has been argued that the fundamental laws of physics do not face a ‘problem of provisos’ equivalent to that found in other scientific disciplines (Earman, Roberts and Smith 2002) and there is only the appearance of exceptions to physical laws if they are confused with differential equations of evolution type (Smith 2002). In this paper I argue that even if this is true, fundamental laws in physics still pose a major challenge to standard Humean approaches to lawhood, as they are not in any obvious sense about regularities in behaviour. A Humean approach to physical laws with exceptions is possible, however, if we adopt a view of laws that takes them to be the algorithms in the algorithmic compressions of empirical data. When this is supplemented with a distinction between lossy and lossless compression, we can explain exceptions in terms of compression artefacts present in the application of the lossy laws.

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Billy Wheeler

Citations of this work

The Emergence of Better Best System Laws.Markus Schrenk - 2017 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 48 (3):469-483.

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References found in this work

How the laws of physics lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Nature's capacities and their measurement.Nancy Cartwright - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
What is a Law of Nature?D. M. Armstrong - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Sydney Shoemaker.

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