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Title: Humean reductionism : a critical examination
Author: Cockayne, Ben Alexander
ISNI:       0000 0004 6056 7260
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2016
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This dissertation is an examination of Humean reductionism (HR) with special reference to laws of nature. The first four chapters are mainly concerned with examining the general assumptions behind HR: that the world is fully characterized by the particular facts, and that laws and other modal features supervene on the particular facts. I argue that the Humean notion of particular fact is not as problematic as some critics have alleged, but that the supervenience claim is counterintuitive in a number of ways. The following three chapters are concerned with the question whether HR can be supported by an analysis of laws which explains how they supervene. David Lewis's leading best system analysis (BSA) is evaluated, with special attention given to two issues. An influential argument for the BSA is that its definition of laws explains our pursuit of the virtues of truth, simplicity, and strength in scientific theorizing. I argue that this argument is unconvincing for various reasons: among them that scientific theories are not candidate systems; and that the notions of strength and simplicity employed in assessing theories are different from the notions required by the BSA. A crucial question is whether the BSA must build our standards of simplicity, strength, and balance into its definition of laws in order to determine a unique best system. I argue that it must, and that in consequence the BSA makes lawhood mind-dependent. I further argue that this consequence undermines the BSA's claim to provide an explanation of how the laws supervene. My conclusion is that these are serious problems for HR: its claim that the laws supervene is dubious both because it is counterintuitive and because it is unsupported by an adequate analysis of lawhood.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available