PHI 523 Problems of Philosophy

Laws, Chance, and Constitution

Fall 2003
Professor: Adam Elga.
(Click on name above for office hours and contact information.)
Meeting time: Thursdays 2:30-5:20.
Class meeting place: To be determined

Topics and questions will include: Humeanism versus primitivism about laws of nature, determinism, the analysis of chance, whether chance is compatible with determinism, the status of non-fundamental laws, and questions of material constitution in worlds whose fundamental physical constituents are fields.

Course Outline

Introduction/organizational meeting

Thu Sep 11:

The role of causation in science

Thu Sep 18:[Aryn]
John Norton. Causation as Folk Science

Objective chance

Thu Sep 25:[Alexi]
David Lewis. "A Subjectivist's Guide to Objective Chance", and appendices, pp. 83-132. In his Philosophical Papers Volume II (1986; Oxford U.P.)

Chances and branches

Thu Oct 2:
David Lewis. How many lives has Schrodinger's cat? Australasian Journal of Philosophy, forthcoming. [Note: please do not circulate this paper or cite it in published work until it appears.]

Thu Oct 9:

Note on Wallace readings: Please focus on the first paper, especially on the difference between the SU and OD viewpoints (Section 2), and the justification of Equivalence in Section 8 (esp. the sentence on p. 16 that begins "Then from the SU viewpoint, this just corresponds to...". Don't worry if you don't follow all of the technical details.

David Wallace. "Quantum probability from subjective likelihood: improving on Deutsch's proof of the probability rule". Available on ereserve with filename "probdecn". N.B. This is a draft, so please do no cite or redistribute it without permission.

David Wallace. Everettian Rationality: defending Deutsch's approach to probability in the Everett interpretation. To appear in Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, under the title "Quantum Probability and Decision Theory, Revisited"


Papineau D. "Why you don't want to get in the box with Schrödinger's cat". Analysis, January 2003, vol. 63, no. 277, pp. 51-58(8).

Thu Oct 16:
Michael Strevens. Inferring Probabilities From Symmetries. Noûs 32(2), 231-46, 1998.

Thu Oct 23:
Richard Jeffrey. Subjective Probability (The Real Thing), section 1.8.

Skyrms, B. Causal Necessity (Yale UP, 1980). Sections IA3 - IA4 (pp. 9-26).

Lewis, David. "Ramseyan humility". [Note: please do not circulate this paper or cite it in published work until it appears.]

Humean supervenience and chance

Thu Nov 6:[Marco]

Ned Hall. "Correcting the Guide to Objective Chance", Mind 103 (1994): 505-517.

David Lewis. "Humean Supervenience Debugged" Mind 103 (1994) 473-490.

Humean supervenience

Thu Nov 13:[Valia]
Schaffer, Jonathan. "Quiddistic Knowledge".

Arntzenius, Frank. Draft of chapter 2 "The world is painted on the cloth of space and time".

[optional] David Lewis. Introduction to Philosophical Papers Volume II (1986; Oxford U.P.) (pp. i-xvii).

[optional] Tim Maudlin, "Why Be Humean?" pre-print.

Intrinsicness and spacetime

Thu Nov 20:[David]
Maudlin, Tim. "Suggestions from physics for deep metaphysics". Manuscript.

Earman, John. "Kant, incongruent counterparts, and absolute space". In World enough and space-time, Chapter 7.

Material objects

Thu Dec 4:
Johnston, Mark. 1987. "Is There a Problem about Persistence?", The Aristotelian Society, Supp. vol. 61: 107-135. Focus on Section VI (pp. 129--135).

David Wallace. Everett and Structure. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics. Focus on Section 4 (pp. 5-9).

Daniel C. Dennett. Real Patterns. The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 88, No. 1. (Jan., 1991), pp. 27-51. Focus on the claim on p. 34: "A pattern exists in some data--is real-- if..." and the discussion on p. 39 of how the notion of "persisting object" arises in the life world.

Spinning Sphere

Thu Dec 11:
Hawley, Katherine (1999) "Persistence and Non-Supervening Relations" Mind 108: 53- 67.

Callender, Craig. 2001. "Humean Supervenience and Rotating Homogeneous Matter," Mind 110: 25-43.

[optional] Denis Robinson. "Matter, Motion, and Humean Supervenience" , Australasian Journal of Philosophy 67 (1989): 394-409

[optional] Lewis, David (1999). "Zimmerman and the Spinning Sphere" Australasian Journal of Philosophy .pp. 209-212

[optional] Zimmerman, Dean (1999) "One Really Big Liquid Sphere: Reply to Lewis", Australsian Journal of Philosophy. pp. 213-215

Laws and properties

Shoemaker, Sydney. 1980. "Causality and Properties", in Peter van Inwagen (ed.), Time and Cause: Essays Presented to Richard Taylor (Dordrecht: D. Reidel), pp. 109-135.

Electronic reserve notes

You can access the ereserves through the library's electronic reserve page. You'll need the course userid (phi523) and course password [supplied in class] to log in. You also may need to download some special software; see the help page for details.

Adam Elga | | Princeton University
Last modified: Fri Dec 5 14:14:42 EST 2003