Laws of Nature, Explanation, and Semantic Circularity

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19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Humeans and anti-Humeans agree that laws of nature should explain scientifically particular matters of fact. One objection to Humean accounts of laws contends that Humean laws cannot explain particular matters of fact because their explanations are harmfully circular. This article distinguishes between metaphysical and semantic characterizations of the circularity and argues for a new semantic version of the circularity objection. The new formulation suggests that Humean explanations are harmfully circular because the content of the sentences being explained is part of the content of the sentences doing the explaining. I describe the nature of partial content and demonstrate how this account of partial content renders Humean explanations ineffective while sparing anti-Humean explanations from the same fate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)787-815
Number of pages29
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Volume70
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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