•  429
    Scientific law: A perspectival account (review)
    Erkenntnis 58 (2): 137-168. 2003.
    An acceptable empiricist account of laws of nature would havesignificant implications for a number of philosophical projects. For example, such an account may vitiate argumentsthat the fundamental constants of nature are divinelydesigned so that laws produce a life permittinguniverse. On an empiricist account, laws do not produce the universe but are designed by us to systematize theevents of a universe which does in fact contain life; so any ``fine tuning'' of natural law has a naturalistic exp…Read more
  •  179
    Nomic necessity and empiricism
    Noûs 33 (4): 630-643. 1999.
    character. So, we have learned from early on that laws are meant to portray a sort of necessity in nature. The comings and goings described by law are not merely contingently related. Rather, it is part of the concept of law that these events are connected in some significant way: "nomically" connected. One important desideratum for an account of law, then, is that it respect and perhaps explain this modal character.
  •  153
    Lewis, Thau, and hall on chance and the best-system account of law
    Philosophy of Science 65 (2): 349-360. 1998.
    August 16, 1997 David Lewis2 has long defended an account of scientific law acceptable even to an empiricist with significant metaphysical scruples. On this account, the laws are defined to be the consequences of the best system for axiomitizing all occurrent fact. Here "best system" means the set of sentences which yields the best combination of strength of descriptive content 3 with simplicity of exposition. And occurrent facts, the facts to be systematized, are roughly the particular facts ab…Read more
  •  153
  •  141
    Rachel Briggs’ critique of “antirealist” accounts of scientific law— including my own perspectivalist best-system account—is part of a project meant to show that Humean conceptions of scientific law are more problematic than has been commonly realized. Indeed, her argument provides a new challenge to the Humean, a thoroughly epistemic version of David Lewis’ “big, bad bug” for Humeanism. Still, I will argue, the antirealist (perspectivalist and expressivist) accounts she criticizes have the reso…Read more
  •  74
    This paper evaluates the recent trend to renounce the similarity approach to counterfactuals in favor of the older metalinguistic theory. I try to show, first, that the metalinguistic theory cannot work in anything like its present form (the form described by many in the last decade who claim to be able to solve Goodman''s old problem of cotenability). This is so, I argue, because the metalinguistic theory requires laws of nature of a sort that we (apparently) do not have: current physical theor…Read more
  •  70
    What is the logical form of probability assignment in quantum mechanics?
    Philosophy of Science 58 (1): 36-60. 1991.
    The nature of quantum mechanical probability has often seemed mysterious. To shed some light on this topic, the present paper analyzes the logical form of probability assignment in quantum mechanics. To begin the paper, I set out and criticize several attempts to analyze the form. I go on to propose a new form which utilizes a novel, probabilistic conditional and argue that this proposal is, overall, the best rendering of the quantum mechanical probability assignments. Finally, quantum mechanics…Read more
  •  61
    In his (1981) paper, Stalnaker has revised his old theory of conditionals and has given the revision an interesting defense. Indeed, Stalnaker shows that this new theory meets the standard objections put to the old. However, I argue that the revision runs into difficulties in the context of quantum mechanics: If Stalnaker's theory of the conditional is assumed, then from plausible assumptions certain Bell-like conflicts with experiment can be derived. This result, I go on to argue, is a good rea…Read more
  •  24
    David Lewis[ii] has long defended an account of scientific law acceptable even to an empiricist with significant metaphysical scruples. On this account, the laws are defined to be the consequences of the best system for axiomitizing all occurrent fact. Here "best system" means the set of sentences which yields the best combination of strength of descriptive content[iii] with simplicity of exposition. And occurrent facts, the facts to be systematized, are roughly the particular facts about a loca…Read more
  •  23
    Book reviews (review)
    with Tamar Sovran and Lynne McFall
    Philosophia 21 (3-4): 351-369. 1992.
  •  10
    Conceptual problems for consciousness are analogous to a Humean’s problem with scientific laws. Just as consciousness is often seen to involve further facts beyond the physical, laws would seem to involve reality beyond the Humean’s occurrent facts1. I will attempt to show that a Lewis-style best-system solution to the problem for laws should be applied to the related problem for consciousness. The leading idea of a best-system account is that law and chance claims are true in virtue of their pl…Read more
  •  8
  •  5
    Completeness conditions for indeterministic theories
    Philosophical Studies 49 (3). 1986.
  •  2
    In recent years, there has been much discussion over how to assure scientific integrity. It has become clear that a few scientists have fraudulently collected or reported data, conducted harmful or unethical experiments, or practiced “unscientific” procedure. What are regulative bodies to do? The approach has been to define research misconduct and then use that definition to assess scientific practice.[1] But just how to define research misconduct and hence, regulate the conduct of scientists in…Read more
  •  2
    The best-system account of scientific law proposes that laws and chances are to be defined in terms of systematic interpretation of all occurrences: L is a law and the chance of X is p just in case L and the chance p of X are consequences of the ideal axiom system for the totality of events. So, what seem to be further facts beyond the occurrences are just matters of the best way to interpret the totality of physical events. This paper proposes treating mentalistic concepts in a similar fashion:…Read more
  • The Myopic Anthropic Principle: an attempt to show that the popular anthropic reasoning of our time — often taken to show that laws of nature are fine-tuned by a god for us — should be seen merely as an indication of fine-tuning by us. This preference for short-sightedness in this case is shown (shown?) to support the best-system account of scientific law.
  • Semantical Structures for Indeterministic Theories
    Dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago. 1984.
    In chapter 1, I begin the task of giving a semantical theory which is appropriate for the general indeterministic context and which can profitably be applied to the special context of quantum mechanics. I treat the notion of indeterminism, and discuss tree structures. In the second chapter, I consider several theories of tense meant for the indeterministic context. All presuppose tree structures. I defend one of these as the best rendering of simple English future tense. ;In the third chapter, I…Read more