Mack Sullivan




In the metaphysics of science, there is an important disagreement between minimalists (according to whom we may understand scientifically interesting relations in terms of relatively minimal resources) and elitists (according to whom understanding those scientifically interesting relations requires more). On causation, for example, the minimalists hold that our account of causal relations need not mention (for example) any facts about deduction or manipulation, while the elitists hold that it must. And on causal explanation, the minimalists hold that any kind of causal relation gives rise to a causal explanatory relation, while the elitists hold that it is only an elite subset of them, with an elite set of special properties, which do.

This paper strikes a blow for minimalism, by proposing a possible test case, and arguing that the test case tells in minimalism’s favor. (I will only discuss causation and causal explanation here; but it should be clear how this sort of argument generalizes to other sorts of debates between minimalists and elitists.) The possibility I will be discussing is the possibility of lawlessness: the possibility, that is, that there are no contingent laws. §1 argues for, and clarifies, the possibility of lawlessness. §2 argues for the possibility that there could still be causal and explanatory relations, in these sorts of lawless possibilities. And §3 argues that such causal and explanatory possibilities are a counterexample to elitism.


June 20th/16:40/Aula Magna