Three Accounts of Laws and Time: or Does Science Need Metaphysics?
Alison Sutton Fernandes (Trinity College, Dublin)

March 7, 2019, 4:00pm - 5:30pm
School of Philosophy, University College Dublin

D522, Newman Building
Belfield Dublin 4
Ireland

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University College Dublin

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Abstract: How might we provide a metaphysics for scientific modalities like causation, laws and chance? Here are two approaches: we can be Humean, and reduce the modal to the non-modal, or we can be non-Humean, and accept modalities as metaphysical primitives. Surprisingly, these approaches have been associated with two quite different attitudes to the direction of time. Humeans typically offer scientific explanations of temporal asymmetries, while non-Humeans take some temporal asymmetries as basic. I’ll argue for a third approach, one that agrees with the Humean in providing scientific explanations (of temporal asymmetries), but without reducing the modal. While this approach might look like more metaphysics, I’ll argue that it actually amounts to adopting a kind of pragmatism about science. The approach denies metaphysical claims about fundamentality, and seeks instead to explain the function of modal entities in scientific terms. This pragmatist approach provides a clear ontology to science, and, and unlike the other two accounts, doesn’t use metaphysics in place of science.  

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