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A Humean account of laws and causation

Friend, Toby; (2018) A Humean account of laws and causation. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The thesis proposes a new account of laws of nature and token causation within the Humean tradition. After a brief introduction in §1, I specify and defend in §2 a Humean approach to the question of laws and causation. In §3 I defend the view that laws are conditional generalisations which concern 'systems' and detail further issues concerning the scope, content and universality of laws. On the basis of the discussion concerning laws' logical form, I argue in §4 against a view of laws as mirroring the structure of causal relations. Moreover, I show how this conception is implicit in the best system account of laws, thereby giving us reason to reject that account too. §5 presents an alternative `causal-junctions conception' of laws in terms of four causal features often associated with laws: component-level and law-level dispositionality, and variable-level and law-level causal asymmetry. These causal features combine to demarcate a central class of laws called `robust causal junction laws' from which other laws can be accounted for. §6 provides a Humean analysis of the causal features used to characterise robust causal junction laws. This is done first by providing an analysis of dispositions in terms of systems and laws, and second, by providing an analysis of causal asymmetry in terms of relations of probabilistic independence. In §7, I then provide a nomological analysis of token causation by showing how the causal junctions described by robust causal junction laws can be chained together in a particular context.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: A Humean account of laws and causation
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10041589
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