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AGPhil: Arbeitsgruppe Philosophie der Physik

AGPhil 5: Laws of Nature

AGPhil 5.2: Vortrag

Mittwoch, 1. April 2020, 14:45–15:15, H-HS III

The modal status of the laws of nature. Tahko's hybrid view and the kinematical/dynamical distinction. — •Salim Hirèche1, Niels Linnemann4, Robert Michels1,2,3, and Lisa Vogt1,51Université de Genève — 2Université de Neuchâtel — 3Università della Svizzera italiana — 4Universität Bremen — 5Universitat de Barcelona

Tahko (2015) recently argued for a hybrid view of the laws of nature, according to which some physical laws are metaphysically necessary, while others are metaphysically contingent. His core idea is that the metaphysically necessary laws feature fundamental natural kinds, while the contingent laws do not. We show that this criterion is on its own insufficient: First, it lacks robustness, since it fails to rule out redescriptions of Tahko's crucial case study of a metaphysically contingent law (Coulomb's law) according to which the law features a natural kind and therefore qualifies, pace Tahko, as metaphysically necessary. Second, the focus on kinds is unwarranted, given that natural kinds could be in principle substituted by different entities whose essences ground the metaphysical necessity of the law. Third, the criterion does not have a clear motivation from the perspective of naturalized metaphysics. We then propose an alternative way of drawing the metaphysically necessary/contingent-distinction for laws of physics based on the central kinematical/dynamical-distinction used in physical theorising. As we argue, this new criterion can be used to amend Tahko's own account, but can also be combined with different metaphysical views about the source of necessity.

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