Humean reductionism about laws of nature appears to leave a central aspect of scientific practice unmotivated: If the world’s fundamental structure is exhausted by the actual distribution of non-modal properties and the laws of nature are merely efficient summaries of this distribution, then why does science posit laws that cover a wide range of non-actual circumstances? In this paper, we develop a new version of the Humean best systems account of laws based on the idea that laws need to organize information in a way that maximizes their cognitive usefulness for creature like us. We argue that this account motivates scientific practice because the laws’ applicability to non-actual circumstances falls right out of their cognitive usefulness.
KeywordsLaws of nature Best systems account Humeanism Modality
Both authors contributed equally to the paper. For helpful comments and suggestions, we would like to thank Chris Dorst, David Glick, Ned Hall, Andreas Hüttemann, Michael T. Hicks, Catherine Jo, Marc Lange, Markus Schrenk, three anonymous referees for this journal, as well as audiences in Cologne and Oxford.
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