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Super-Humeanism and free will


Super-Humeanism is an even more parsimonious ontology than Lewisian standard Humean metaphysics in that it rejects intrinsic properties (local qualties). There are point objects, but all there is to them are their relative positions (distance relations) and the change of them. Everything else supervenes on the Humean mosaic thus conceived. Hence, dynamical parameters (such as mass, charge, energy, a wave-function, etc.) come in on a par with the laws through their position in the best system. The paper sets out how Super-Humeanism has the conceptual means to reject van Inwagen’s consequence argument not by taking the laws to depend on us (as on standard Humean metaphysics), but by taking the initial values of the dynamical parameters that enter into the laws to be dependent on the motions that actually occur in the universe, including the motions of human bodies. The paper spells out the advantages of this proposal.

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  1. See Jackson (1994, p. 25) for this use of the term “location” or “located in”. Price (2004) uses the term “placement”.

  2. See also Jackson (1998, pp. 23–24).

  3. See e.g. Black (2000).

  4. See e.g. Bird (2007).

  5. See Esfeld and Deckert (2017, ch. 2). See Hall (2009, section 5.2) as well as Loewer (2007) for forerunners of Super-Humeanism. See Wilson (2018), Marmodoro (2018), Darby (2018), Lazarovici (2018), Matarese (2019) and Simpson (2019) for critical discussions of Super-Humeanism.

  6. See also Lewis (1986a, pp. 76–78).

  7. Such an arbitrariness threatens, by contrast, the “package deal account” proposed by Loewer (2007) that is also directed against Lewis’s natural properties.

  8. See also van Inwagen (1975) for an earlier and more detailed version of the argument.

  9. See already Loewer (1996).

  10. The most prominent such conception goes back to Frankfurt (1971).

  11. See also Beebee and Mele (2002) for a detailed argument. See already Swartz (2003, ch. 11, in particular p. 127).

  12. See e.g. Hall (2009) for a clear exposition of these arguments.

  13. See again Beebee and Mele (2002, pp. 209–217).

  14. See Hüttemann and Loew (2019) for an argument that it is not convincing.

  15. See Esfeld and Deckert (2017, ch. 2.3) for a detailed argument.

  16. See Miller (2014), Esfeld (2014), Callender (2015) and Bhogal and Zee (2017).

  17. See Forrest (1985) for one such proposal.

  18. For such proposals, see Hoefer (2002) and Ismael (2016, ch. 6 and pp. 227–230). See Brennan (2007) for a criticism of Hoefer’s proposal.


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I would like to thank the organizers and the participants of the workshop “Humeanisms” in Budapest in July 2018 as well as three anonymous referees for their helpful comments on the draft of this paper.

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Correspondence to Michael Esfeld.

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Esfeld, M. Super-Humeanism and free will. Synthese 198, 6245–6258 (2021).

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  • Consequence argument
  • Free will
  • Humean metaphysics
  • David Lewis
  • Super-Humeanism
  • Peter van Inwagen