History and Metaphysics of the Laws of Nature

Thursday, July 12, 2018 - 10:00am to Saturday, July 14, 2018 - 7:00pm

Laws of nature (or scientific laws) are central to the sciences, especially to fundamental physics. They provide the explanatory backbone of the sciences by grounding explanations, causal relations, predictions and counterfactuals. They are intimately related to natures of time, space, and objective probability. While it is the task of scientists to discover what laws there are, it is the task of philosophers to provide accounts of what laws are, i.e. what makes a generalization or equation express a law? As Hawking puts it, “What breathes fire into the equations?” Addressing this question involves attention to both the history of philosophy and science and current work in the metaphysics and philosophy of science.

The goal of the conference is to bring together philosophers working both on the history of the concept of laws and on metaphysical issues concerning laws, causation, and chance to interact and exchange views. Conference participants will examine how the idea that nature is law-governed came to prominence in physics (and other sciences) and how the origin and history of the concept of laws influences contemporary philosophical debates regarding the metaphysics of laws, chance, and causation.

The conference will be held immediately after the summer school at CEU on the same topics and will likely be attended by many of the participants in the course.

For more information contact Barry Loewer


Thursday, July 12, 2018

9:45-10:00 Introduction & Opening Remarks
10:00-11:10 Heather Demarest (University of ColoradoBoulder) & Mike Hicks (University of Cologne): “Nonlocal Science”
Commentator: Hanoch Ben-Yami
coffee break
11:30-12:40 Alison Fernandes (Trinity College Dublin): "Three Accounts of Laws and Time”
Commentator: Laszlo Szabo
lunch break
14:00-15:10 Andreas Hütteman (University of Cologne): “How Laws Explain”
Commentator: Balazs Gyenis
coffee break
15:30-16:40 Elizabeth Miller (Yale Universty): “Laws and Ontology”
Commentator: Mike Hicks

Friday, July 13, 2018

10:00-11:10 Howard Robinson (CEU): "John Foster on Laws”
Commentator: Ferenc Huoranszki
coffee break
11:30-12:40 Jessica Riskin (Stanford University): “Lamarck's Giraffe and the Problem of Agency”
Commentator: Thomas Blanchard
lunch break
14:00-15:10 Mauro Dorato (University of Rome): "Technology and Theology as the main forces that shaped the modern conception of laws of nature”
Commentator: Andreas Huttemann
coffee break
15:30-16:40 Chris Weaver (University of Illinois): “QED, QCD, and Causal Direction”
Commentator: David Albert

Saturday, July 14, 2018

10:00-11:30 Barry Loewer (Rutgers University) & David Albert (Columbia University): “Physics with a Humean Face”
Commentator: Christopher Kutz