Tan, Peter, Philosophy - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Tan, Peter, AS-Philosophy, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines philosophical issues raised by a certain kind of counterfactual claim prevalent in science: counternomics. These counterfactuals describe what would have happened if certain laws of nature had been different. For example, if there were no hydrogen bonding, water would be gaseous at room temperature. If Gauss's equation for magnetism had not been a law, Ampere's circuital law still would have been a law. It shows that careful attention to counternomics in science raises special problems for existing philosophical theories of modality. Among other things, the project concludes that meaningful counterfactuals cannot be accounted for entirely in terms of which things are possible or necessary. The dissertation also examines philosophical aspects of some ways that counternomics appear within science, specifically, how experimentation can provide evidence for counternomic hypotheses, and how counternomics can problematize traditional philosophical conceptions of the laws of nature.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
philosophy of science, metaphysics, laws of nature, counterfactuals
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