We are a Working Group devoted to the discussion of historical and philosophical issues in symbolic logic, mathematics, and science. We meet on occasional Wednesday evenings for a talk and a lively discussion. The group is funded by the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities and the Department of Philosophy.

All members of the academic community are welcome to attend. We have regular participants in many different fields, including philosophy, mathematics, history of science, and psychology.

The group organizers are Lara Buchak (Philosophy), Wesley Holliday (Philosophy), John MacFarlane (Philosophy), Paolo Mancosu (Philosophy), and Seth Yalcin (Philosophy).

Our next event

April 22, 2015, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Kerry McKenzie (UCSD)

In No Categorical Terms: Symmetries as a new route to Humeanism about Fundamental Laws

In the metaphysics literature on laws of nature one finds a position called ‘Humeanism’, in which the fundamental properties are taken to have a categorical character and the laws to be contingent as a result. This Humean view is a popular one, perhaps even the default one. But I myself find it borderline unintelligible, largely on account of symmetry.

In this talk, I’ll try to explain why I have such a hard time locating either categorical properties or nomic contingency in contemporary physics, where symmetries have a pivotal role. But I’ll also claim that that doesn’t itself mean that Humeanism is dead in the water; rather, I’ll suggest that we just need to rethink Humeanism, and in particular that we need to think much more seriously about mathematics when doing modal metaphysics.