Getting Away from Governance: A Structuralist Approach to Laws and Symmetries

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Cei, Angelo; French, Steven
preprint description
Dispositionalist accounts of scientific laws are currently at the forefront of discussions in the metaphysics of science. However, Mumford has presented such accounts with the following dilemma: if laws are to have a governing role, then they cannot be grounded in the relevant dispositions; if on the other hand, they are so grounded, then they cannot perform such a role. Mumford’s solution is drastic: to do away with laws as metaphysically substantive entities altogether. Dispositionalist accounts are also deficient in that they either make no mention of the significant role of symmetries in science, or attempt to inappropriately eliminate this role. Here we shall attempt to motivate a structuralist view of laws by showing how it evades Mumford’s dilemma and accommodates the role of symmetry principles. In addition we shall consider how this view deals with a number of issues that dispositionalism finds problematic and indicate how the supposed necessity of laws and the explanation of relevant counterfactuals look from this structuralist perspective.