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The Shaky Game +25, or: on locavoracity


Taking Arthur Fine’s The Shaky Game as my inspiration, and the recent 25\({\textit{th}}\) anniversary of the publication of that work as the occasion to exercise that inspiration, I sketch an alternative to the “Naturalism” prevalent among philosophers of physics. Naturalism is a methodology eventuating in a metaphysics. The methodology is to seek the deep framework assumptions that make the best sense of science; the metaphysics is furnished by those assumptions and supported by their own support of science. The alternative presented here, which I call “Locavoracity,” shares Naturalism’s commitment to making sense of science, but alters Naturalism’s methodology. The Locavore’s sense-making projects are piecemeal, rather than sweeping. The Locavore’s hypothesis is that the collection of local sense-making projects fails to issue a single overarching unifying framework deserving of the title “the metaphysics that makes the best sense of science.” I muster some examples supporting the Locavore hypothesis from the interpretation of quantum field theories.

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  1. I don’t want to legislate whether it’s merely constrain or fully exhaust. While I can imagine—indeed, I believe that I have seen—self-described Naturalists arguing with one another about which metaphysical commitments their favorite \(T\) induces, I can also imagine other Naturalists contending that any commitment occasioning such a dispute is not really a ‘scientifically informed’ commitment.

  2. What might it take for me to consistently believe the metaphysics “read off of” a theory \(T\) I don’t believe? One option is a picture according to which \(T\) shares its metaphysics with enough rival theories that the truth of the metaphysics fails to warrant belief in \(T\) rather than in the catch-all containing \(T\)’s “metaphysically equivalent” rivals.

  3. According to Merriam-Webster, “locavore,” first used in 2005, denotes one who eats food grown locally whenever possible.

  4. Were we to consider scientific success, period, the Locavore’s suspicion would be even more tempting!

  5. For example, the Unruh vacuum on extended Schwarzschild spacetime is non-Hadamard on the past event horizon (Candelas 1980; see also Fulling 1977).


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This piece was instigated by the 2012 Pacific APA symposium “The Shaky Game at 25,” and impelled by the Ontology and Methodology conference at Virginia Tech the following May. I want to thank organizers of and participants in both events—particularly Arthur Fine, Phil Erlich, Ben Jantzen, Deborah Mayo, and Lydia Patton—for their support, feedback, and patience. I also want to thank two anonymous and helpful referees.

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Ruetsche, L. The Shaky Game +25, or: on locavoracity. Synthese 192, 3425–3442 (2015).

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  • Quantum Gravity
  • Physical Theory
  • Curve Spacetime
  • Scientific Realism
  • Loop Quantum Gravity