Event Detail

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.