Wed Apr 22, 2015
234 Moses Hall, 6–8 PM
|Working Group in the History and Philosophy of Logic, Mathematics, and Science
Kerry McKenzie (UC San Diego)
In No Categorical Terms: Symmetries as a new route to Humeanism about Fundamental Laws
In the metaphysics literature on laws of nature one finds a position called ‘Humeanism’, in which the fundamental properties are taken to have a categorical character and the laws to be contingent as a result. This Humean view is a popular one, perhaps even the default one. But I myself find it borderline unintelligible, largely on account of symmetry.
In this talk, I’ll try to explain why I have such a hard time locating either categorical properties or nomic contingency in contemporary physics, where symmetries have a pivotal role. But I’ll also claim that that doesn’t itself mean that Humeanism is dead in the water; rather, I’ll suggest that we just need to rethink Humeanism, and in particular that we need to think much more seriously about mathematics when doing modal metaphysics.