Short Answer Questions (submit online)
- Give three or more characteristics that one might take a fundamental law of nature to have.
- Compare and Nagelian reduction in the Whole-to-Part (downward) sense to that in the Wild-to-Laboratory (crosswise) sense.
- What is Cartwright's argument against Wild-to-Laboratory (crosswise) reduction?
For Further Discussion
- Is there a force of the wind? Cartwright argues that, "When we have a good-fitting molecular model for the wind, and we have in our theory... systematic rules that assign force functions to the models, and the force functions assigned predict exactly the right motions, then we will have good scientific reason to maintain that the wind operates via a force. Otherwise, the assumption is another expression of fundamentalist faith."
- Is Cartwright right about this?
- Cartwright's argument can be expressed as the following argument in premise-conclusion form: (1) Outside the laboratory, there are no direct tests of the fundamental laws; (2) without a direct test, we have no reason to believe a putative law is true; therefore, (3) we have no reason to believe the fundamental laws are true outside the laboratory. Which of her premises do you think are correct/incorrect?
- Does any slight modification of her premises improve the situation?
- This particular argument is against Wild-to-Laboratory reduction. Do you think that Whole-to-Part reduction fares any better?
- The patchwork view of laws. An alternative to the view that there are fundamental laws is that laws are all equal, describing a patchwork of overlapping regularities of which none have a preferred status.
- Cartwright argues for this view of laws, while also being a realist about the truth of laws. How is this possible? (Hint: Think about the parable of St Peter and the book of nature discussed in lecture.)
- Do you think that it's plausible for there to be a patchwork of overlapping laws, all of which are true?
- How does this kind of pluralism about the laws (i.e. the view that the entire plurality is true) compare to antirealism or conventionalism about the laws? Is one view preferable to the other?
- Whole-to-part reduction. It has been proposed that whole-to-part reduction is possible from chemistry to physics, from sociology to psychology, etc.
- Are such reductions practically impossible? Are they theoretically impossible? Both? Neither?
- Are such reductions possible if there are no fundamental laws? Might they be impossible even if there are fundamental laws?
- For Foundationalism. We have seen arguments given against the view that there fundamental laws of nature do not exist. What reasons (if any) might there be there to believe that they do exist?