Daian Bica, Heinrich-Heine-Universität

Humean laws from a perspectival point of view. HPS, scientific realism, and epistemic pluralism

Perspectival realism claims that scientific knowledge is historically and culturally situated, and, thus, relative to a particular scientific community from a given historical episode (cf. Massimi 2022). From perspectival realism, it follows that there is a plethora of historically situated scientific perspectives across the history of science. Now, although there is a historical commitment to epistemic pluralism, defenders of perspectival realism try to formulate also a commitment to scientific realism, i.e., that there is, besides the historical situatedness of scientific knowledge, a perspective-independent world (e.g., entities, laws, properties) (cf. Massimi 2022). The issue of integrating the two claims is referred to as “the commitment problem” (CTP) of perspectivism (cf. Creţu 2020).

One central question of the research proposal is “Which is the proper realist commitment perspectival realism should take for solving the commitment problem?” To answer the question, I will focus on a specifically telling example. First, I look at the development of the concept of laws of nature in the history of science. Second, I examine a specific philosophical theory of laws of nature (Package Deal Account) which is particularly interesting for my purposes because it interprets the historical development of the concept of law. Taking inspiration from Package Deal Account, I bring forward four perspectival formulations of the package deal account (Perspectival Package Deal Account1 – Perspectival Package Deal Account4) in order to solve the challenge of the commitment problem (cf. Loewer 2020; forthcoming). The diagnosis I furnish is that all four perspectival formulations of the Package Deal Account are a spectrum of possible interpretations with relativism on the left extreme side and traditional scientific realism on the right extreme side.

I provide a thorough cost-benefit analysis of PPDA1 - PPDA4, and I end the exposé with the belief in a positive resolution of the CTP. I shall argue that PPDA1 (left side of the spectrum) seems, at the first glance, to be akin to a form of nominalism, while PPDA4 (right side) seems to collapse in the Lewisian metaphysics of natural properties. Similarly, while PPDA3 (center of the spectrum but leaning to the right side of the spectrum) seems to generate a friction with the commitment to epistemic pluralism, PPDA2 (center but leaning to the left of the spectrum) seems to not be realist enough for solving CTP.

Works cited:

  • Crețu, Ana-Maria (2020), “Natural Kinds as Real Patterns: Or How to Solve the Commitment Problem for Perspectival Realism”, free access http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/16828/
  • Massimi, Michela (2022), Perspectival Realism, ed. Oxford University Press
  • Loewer, Barry (2020), “The Package Deal Account of Laws and Properties (PDA)” in Synthese, Humeanisms Special Issue, July 2020, pp. 1-25
  • Loewer, Barry (forthcoming), “Are Humean Laws Flukes?” Michael T. Hicks, Siegfried Jaag and Christian Loew (eds.), Humean Laws for Human agents, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Key-words: perspectival realism, epistemic pluralism, scientific realism, the Package Deal Account, the commitment problem