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Title: Laws of nature : reductive metaphysics, anti-reductive semantics
Author: Heard, D.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2006
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Serious scientific effort continues to be expended in the search for a so-called “Theory of Everything”, a fundamental theory or law of nature upon which all others depend. Specialist philosophers of physics have begun to tackle specific foundational questions associated with particular candidate Theories of Everything. Yet generalist philosophers of science have said very little about the wider philosophical implications of Theories of Everything. This is regrettable, for the existence or otherwise of a Theory of Everything impacts upon issues of general interest, such as reductionism, explanation and the status of laws of nature. This thesis examines some of these issues. In particular, it motivates and articulates a philosophical analysis of laws of nature which, unlike other analyses, is compatible with the existence of a Theory of Everything. I analyse Theories of Everything as laws of nature which meet certain special conditions. I then demonstrate that such laws are logically possible. In doing so, I turn a number of traditional objections to the possibility of a Theory of Everything. Chief amongst these is the claim that a Theory of Everything would entail unpalatably strong reductionism. I develop a novel philosophical analysis of emergence which shows how we could talk meaningfully at irreducible higher levels of description even if all phenomena were theoretically reducible to the level of the Theory of Everything. I go on to propose a reductive metaphysics which is compatible with the existence of a Theory of Everything. The success of such a metaphysics in accommodating a Theory of Everything rests on realism about one law of nature – the Theory of Everything – and anti-realism about all the rest. This austere ontology is complemented by an anti-reductive semantics which accounts for the autonomy of the special sciences and explains how we get the panoply of “laws” of scientific practice from just one law of nature – the Theory of Everything.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available