Research

in the Metaphysics of Science

The aim of NoMoS is to advance a novel theoretical model of the status and necessity of the laws of nature. The core of this new theoretical model will be a unified approach, according to which both laws and causal powers of things, irreducible to each other, play indispensable and discrete roles in specifying the nomological structure of the world. In contrast to existing monistic conceptions, according to which processes in nature are being subject to either laws or powers, NoMoS will explore and systematically develop a novel way of thinking of the relation between laws and causal powers along the lines of a unification model which brings together two distinct categories and shows how they are work together in governing natural phenomena.


The main working hypothesis of NoMoS is that this new unified conceptual framework for laws and causal powers is necessary for understanding the deep structure of the world. The envisaged unified framework will bring thus the concepts of law of nature and of causal power (and the relevant philosophical views) in contact and conformity with the ways they are invoked in current science.


The suggested model will adopt a (suitably reformed) notion of causal power from the broadly neo- Aristotelian framework and a (suitably reformed) notion of law of nature from the broadly neo-Humean framework. In this new model, both categories are equally fundamental, irreducible to each other and ineliminable constituents of a proper account of the metaphysics of nature: the worldly things execute the laws via their causal powers whilst the laws determine the quantitative relations between the properties of worldly things, the temporal evolution of their states and their interactions as well as global features of the world (eg., conservation principles).


The proposed dualist model will reconceive natural necessity as a function of both irreducible natural laws and the generic causal powers of worldly entities. Taking this novel and hitherto unexplored stance, which is distinct from current monistic or reductivist approaches to laws, will constitute a breakthrough within metaphysics of science. NoMoS will thus attempt a major reconceptualisation and synthesis of some of the most basic concepts within metaphysics of science by overcoming extant views and by bringing the metaphysics of science in better contact with the current scientific image of the world.

 

Methodological approach

Wooden Alphabet Letters

Conceptual Analysis

This is a key method of the philosophical parts of the project. Standard argumentative and analytical strategies will be employed aiming to consolidate old problems and reveal new ones regarding extant approaches to laws and powers; to uncover and criticise their tacit presuppositions; and to lay bare the conceptual structure and foundations of the new dualist model.

Microscope

Case Studies

Two case studies from contemporary science form the provision of concrete input to the main philosophical theories advanced in NoMoS. The first focuses on the place of laws and powers in physics, specifically with respect to the wave-function in Quantum Mechanics and the Standard Model of particle physics. The second focuses on chemistry and in particular the periodic law.  

French Literature

Historical Analysis

The main aim is to identify historical precursors of the dualist model, by focused case studies of two main seventeenth century natural philosophers, Newton and Leibniz. These case studies bring the modern philosophical debate in contact with the original context of the emergence of the law-governed conception of the world. Doing so informs the analyses of the key concepts of NoMoS—laws and powers—as well as the development of the dualist model.