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Title: Common ground for laws and metaphysical modality
Author: Kimpton-Nye, Samuel
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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Philosophers in general, and metaphysicians in particular, are largely concerned with metaphysical modality, that is, with what is possible and necessary, in the broadest sense, and with what makes propositions about metaphysical modality true. Metaphysicians are also concerned with ontology, that is, with what exists and the nature of what exists. Ontology covers such questions as 'do numbers exist?' and 'do universals exist?' and, if numbers and universals do exist, 'what are they like?' and 'how do they exist?'. The laws of nature, such as the law of universal gravitation, Coulomb's law and the Schrödinger equation, for example, raise interesting philosophical questions at the intersection of metaphysics and the philosophy of science, such as 'what is the relationship between laws of nature and scientific explanation?' and 'in what sense, if any, are we free to break the laws?'. Questions about modality, ontology and laws of nature connect in interesting ways. The kinds of things - propositions, universals, possible worlds, etc. - that one is willing to countenance will impact what one can say about the metaphysics of modality and natural laws. The point is illustrated nicely via consideration of Humean constraints on respectable ontology popularized by David Lewis and the ensuing metaphysics of laws and modality that Lewis defends. What distinguishes lawful from non-lawful regularities, according to Lewis, is the fact that the former, but not the latter, are axioms of the description of all property instances throughout the Humean mosaic, which maximizes the virtues of informativeness and simplicity. This is the crux of Lewis's best system analysis of natural laws (BSA) (see, e.g., Lewis 1983, 1994, 2001; Earman 1984; Loewer 1996). Natural laws are thus accounted for in a manner that the Humean finds metaphysically innocuous because no appeal is made to any mysterious governing forces or necessary connections between distinct existences. The Humean is primarily concerned with defending (the tenability of) an ontology, which then informs and places restrictions on what can be said about laws and modality. However, one's primary concern might just as well be with analysing the laws and, dissatisfied with regularity accounts, such as the BSA, one might be motivated to develop an alternative account of laws with its own distinctive ontological implications. My concern in this thesis is with exploring the interactions between a cluster of specific views about ontology, modality and the laws of nature. The particular ontology I am interested in is unHumean in the sense that it admits necessary connections between properties and the behaviours that they confer because properties have non-trivial essences which ground certain behaviours. The account of laws is metaphysically thin for it conceives of the laws as merely descriptive, à la the BSA. And the metaphysics of modality that I am interested in roots modality firmly in the actual world.
Supervisor: Leech, Jessica Frances ; Knox, Eleanor Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available