A critique of Humean and anti-Humean metaphysics of cause and law

Smart, Benjamin T. H. (2012) A critique of Humean and anti-Humean metaphysics of cause and law. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

It is my contention that physics and metaphysics (or at least the aspects of metaphysics to be considered in this thesis) broadly strive to achieve common goals: to understand what our physical system is constituted by, and both how, and why it evolves in the way that it does. Metaphysicians, as well as the scientific disciplines, play an important role in our understanding of the universe. In recent years, physicists have focussed on finding accurate mathematical formalisms of the evolution of our physical system - if a metaphysician can uncover the metaphysical underpinnings of these formalisms; that is, why these formalisms seem to consistently map the universe, then our understanding of the world and the things in it is greatly enhanced. Science, then, plays a very important role in our project, as the best scientific formalisms provide us with what we, as metaphysicians, should be trying to interpret – but these interpretations are integral to understanding the nature of natural laws and causation.

In this thesis I examine existing metaphysical views of what a law is (both from a conceptual and from a metaphysical perspective), show how closely causation is linked to laws, and provide a priori arguments for and against each of these positions. Ultimately, I provide an analysis of a number of metaphysics of natural laws and causation, apply these accounts to our best scientific theories, and see how these metaphysics fit in with our concepts of cause and law. Although I do not attempt a definitive metaphysical account myself, I conclude that any successful metaphysic will be a broadly Humean one, and furthermore that given the concepts of cause and law that shall be agreed upon, Humean theories allow for there to be causal sequences and laws (in line with our concepts) in the world.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Mackie, P.
Barker, S.
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
ID Code:2540
Deposited By:Dr Benjamin T. H. Smart
Deposited On:11 Sep 2012 14:09
Last Modified:11 Sep 2012 14:09

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