THE NATURE OF PHYSICAL LAWS (CAUSATION, NECESSITY, ONTOLOGY, EPISTEMOLOGY).
AuthorCARROLL, JOHN WILLIAM.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractA program for advancing a new philosophical account of physical laws is presented. The program is non-reductive in that it maintains that any correct account of physical laws must recognize law sentences as irreducible--that is, as not admitting of an analysis which does not invoke any unanalyzed nomic facts (i.e. causal statements, law statements, subjunctive conditionals, etc.). The program has the unusual attraction of being consistent with Nominalism and epistemically in the spirit of Empiricism. Initially motivating my program is a two-stage attack in chapters two and three on all reductive accounts. The first stage of the attack is on traditional reductive accounts. Traditional reductive accounts are those accounts which do not invoke abstract entities in addressing nomic modality, i.e. in distinguishing universal laws from accidentally true generalizations or in explaining the relationship between statements of probability and statements of relative frequency. These accounts include those of Brian Skyrms, David Lewis, and Bas van Fraassen. The second stage of the attack is on all non-traditional reductive accounts. These accounts include David Armstrong's Nomic Realism. The two-stage attack exhausts the ontological ground for a reduction of laws. It is concluded that no reductive accounts of physical laws is possible. Chapter four spells out the details of my positive program. The program calls for (i) statement of the basic philosophical truths about nomic modality, (ii) the specification of axiomatic principles governing physical laws, and (iii) the analysis of nomic facts in terms of other nomic facts. The basic truths about nomic modality are stated in full. Foremost among these is the Irreducibility Thesis which states that law sentences are irreducible. Some examples of axiomatic principles governing physical laws are specified and one example of an analysis of nomic facts in terms of other nomic facts is given. The analysis is of general causal statements. Time is also spent in chapter four critically reviewing other accounts in the history of philosophy which have recognized law sentences as irreducible. The final chapter addresses the most common and the most significant objection to my positive program. That objection is the epistemological challenge of Empiricism. I argue that my program and, in particular, the Irreducibility Thesis are epistemologically innocuous.