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Why Humean explanations are not circular

Duguid, Callum (2021) Why Humean explanations are not circular.

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A long-standing charge of circularity against regularity accounts of laws has recently seen a surge of renewed interest. The difficulty is that we appeal to laws to explain their worldly instances, but if these laws are descriptions of regularities in the instances then they are explained by those very instances. By the transitivity of explanation, we reach an absurd conclusion: instances of the laws explain themselves. While drawing a distinction between metaphysical and scientific explanations merely modifies the challenge rather than resolving it, I argue that it does point us towards an attractive solution. According to Humeanism, the most prominent form of the regularity view, laws capture information about important patterns in the phenomena. By invoking laws in scientific explanations, Humeans are showing how a given explanandum is subsumed into a more general pattern. Doing so both undermines a principle of transitivity that plays a crucial role in the circularity argument and draws out a central feature of the Humean approach to scientific explanation.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Duguid, Callumcalduguid@gmail.com0000-0001-7140-6225
Keywords: Laws of nature · Grounding · Explanation · Humeanism · Lewis
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Depositing User: Callum Duguid
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2021 15:41
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2021 15:41
Item ID: 18695
Official URL:
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Laws of Nature
Date: 6 February 2021

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