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CEFISES Seminar: Cristian Soto, “Physical modality for physical laws”
This talk will take place exceptionally on Zoom; please e-mail the organizer (Cristian Lopez, email below) for the link and details.
Series: Metaphysics of Science
Abstract: Laws of nature amount to one of the modal components of scientific theorizing, informing us about ranges of possibilities and necessities in various physical domains. This appears to be a key, non- negotiable feature for something to be a law. However, since the emergence and consolidation of laws of nature in seventeenth-century natural philosophy, both philosophers and scientists have had a hard time trying to tell a story about the proper source of modality for physical laws. Although the debate between Humean and anti-Humean views delivers various useful arguments and morals, recent developments have shifted direction, moving towards the examination of the character of the modal content of laws. After briefly outlining metaphysical strategies for construing modality, this article elaborates and defends an account of physical modality for physical laws. The road is twofold. Firstly, I characterize what physical means in the expression physical modality; and secondly, I examine what some may call the mathematical modality of laws of nature. I suggest, nevertheless, that physical modality is crucial for an understanding of laws, since, even though most of them are routinely expressed in terms of mathematical equations, they ultimately purport to inform us about physical domains.