Beebe, Helen, and . Does Anything Hold the Universe Together?

2006, Synthese 149(3): 509-533.

Abstract: According to ‘regularity theories’ of causation, the obtaining of causal relations depends on no more than the obtaining of certain kinds of regularity. Regularity theorists are thus anti-realists about necessary connections in nature. Regularity theories of one form or another have constituted the dominant view in analytic Philosophy for a long time, but have recently come in for some robust criticism, notably from Galen Strawson. Strawson’s criticisms are natural criticisms to make, but have not so far provoked much response from regularity theorists. The paper considers and rebuts Strawson’s objections. For example, Strawson claims that if there were no necessary connections in nature, we ought continually to find the regularity of the Universe surprising. I argue that the fact that the Universe is regular is something we take ourselves (fallibly) to know, and hence, in the light of this knowledge, its continued orderliness is not at all surprising

Comment: A must read for students interested in the reularity theories of causation. It would be recommended for student who have a previous kwodledge of Lewis's and Hume's views. Recomended for postgraduates or undergraduates who have been introduded to the topic before.

Beebee, Helen, and . The non-governing conception of laws of nature

2000, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 56: 571-594.

Abstract: Recently several thought experiments have been developed (by John Carroll amongst others) which have been alleged to refute the Ramsey-Lewis view of laws of nature. The paper aims to show that two such thought experiments fail to establish that the Ramsey-Lewis view is false, since they presuppose a conception of laws of nature that is radically at odds with the Humean conception of laws embodied by the Ramsey- Lewis view. In particular, the thought experiments presuppose that laws of nature govern the behavior of objects. The paper argues that the claim that laws govern should not be regarded as a conceptual truth, and shows how the governing conception of laws manifests itself in the thought experiments. Hence the thought experiments do not constitute genuine counter-examples to the Ramsey-Lewis view, since the Humean is free to reject the conception of laws which the thought experiments presuppose.

Comment: Good primary or secondary reading for advanced undergraduate or graduate philosophy of science or metaphysics courses; or any course where laws of nature are relevant (for instance, a course considering the contemporary impact of Hume).

Cartwright, Nancy, and . How the Laws of Physics Lie

1983, Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Note: Nancy Cartwright argues for a novel conception of the role of fundamental scientific laws in modern natural science. If we attend closely to the manner in which theoretical laws figure in the practice of science, we see that despite their great explanatory power these laws do not describe reality. Instead, fundamental laws describe highly idealized objects in models. Thus, the correct account of explanation in science is not the traditional covering law view, but the ‘simulacrum’ account. On this view, explanation is a matter of constructing a model that may employ, but need not be consistent with, a theoretical framework, in which phenomenological laws that are true of the empirical case in question can be derived. Anti?realism about theoretical laws does not, however, commit one to anti?realism about theoretical entities. Belief in theoretical entities can be grounded in well?tested localized causal claims about concrete physical processes, sometimes now called ‘entity realism’. Such causal claims provide the basis for partial realism and they are ineliminable from the practice of explanation and intervention in nature.

Comment: Essential reading on realism and anti-realism about the laws of nature. Recommended for undergraduates who have prior knowledge of Humeanism about laws and for postgraduates in general. The book consists of a series of philosophical essays that can be used independently.

Vetter, Barbara, and . Dispositional Essentialism and the Laws of Nature

2012, In Alexander Bird, Brian Ellis & Howard Sankey (eds.), Properties, Powers, and Structures. Issues in the Metaphysics of Realism. Routledge.

Summary: In this paper, Vetter looks at the argument for Dispositional Essentialism (DE) that has been put forward by A. Bird in his recent book Nature’s Metaphysics. Bird’s overall argument comes in two parts, one negative and one positive, which together are to establish DE as the best contender for a theory of properties and laws. Vetter argues that, even if all their particular steps go through, both parts of the argument have significant gaps. The negative argument, if successful, shows that at least one property has an essence, but not that any property has a dispositional essence. The positive argument, which aims to demonstrate the explanatory power of DE, fails to take account of the quantitative nature of the fundamental natural properties and laws. The paper finishes by suggesting a revision of DE’s doctrine that might solve the latter problem, but yet remains to be spelled out.

Comment: This paper explores in detail the metaphysics of dispositions. It is a good secondary reading for those who have already read Armstrong or Alexander Bird. Vetter writes in a very clear way, but a basic background in metaphysics might be needed to fully understand the paper. This reading is then more suitable for postgraduate courses in metaphysics or philosophy of science.