Demarest, Heather, and . Fundamental Properties and the Laws of Nature

2015, Philosophy Compass 10(5) 224-344.

Abstract: Fundamental properties and the laws of nature go hand in hand: mass and gravitation, charge and electromagnetism, spin and quantum mechanics. So, it is unsurprising that one’s account of fundamental properties affects one’s view of the laws of nature and vice versa. In this essay,the author surveys a variety of recent attempts to provide a joint account of the fundamental properties and the laws of nature. Many of these accounts are new and unexplored. Some of them posit surprising entities, such as counterfacts. Other accounts posit surprising laws of nature, such as instantaneous laws that constrain the initial configuration of particles. These exciting developments challenge our assumptions about our basic ontology and provide fertile ground for further exploration.

Comment: The article introduces in a simple way some fundamental concepts such as ‘law of nature’, ‘properties’, the notion of ‘categorical’ and ‘dispositional’ or the distinction between the governing and the systems approaches. It could serve as an introduction for those undergraduates that have never heard of these concepts before, or as a further reading for those in need of clarification. Some examples of modern fundamental physics are used as examples.