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Marius Stan

Thanks, Eric. Very interesting, as always. I have a few questions.

I don't understand the idea that the System of Chance (SoC) doesn't get to posit a law for bodily motions. Without laws of motion, you can't infer to anything past the "chance" state (=distribution of masses and velocities) you start with. Laws are rules of inference, or else the chance state entails nothing but analytic truths. So, if SoC is expected to explain the *current* world-state from some "chance" *past* state, surely it must be allowed rules of inference. Namely, laws. Kant knew that. I don't see why you have to explain the laws themselves. Their "explanation" is that they suffice -- together with the chance state -- to account for the present state.

Second, it seems the dialectic is between *three* sides, not two: the Chancer, the Dappler, and the Uniformer. If God could be a dappling creator, the anti-chancers run into some problems. 1) to sort out whether the Dappler or the Chancer is right, you have to do a complete induction, with evidence from all over the universe, not just finite regions. That exceeds whatever evidence-gathering technologies anyone could hope to have in the 19th c. 2) short of an induction by complete enumeration, the debate between Dappler and Uniformer would have to get settled partly from non-empirical evidence. Before the end of inquiry, the empirical facts are compatibel with either side above. 3) more generally, because these positions are explanatory projects, I have a hunch they expected to carry the day partly on extra-empirical grounds. Namely, not from astronomical evidence, but somehow from reasons falling out of the "best"-part in 'inference to the best explanation.'

What say you? :-)

Alan Nelson

An interesting development of this comes from the distinction between 1) different laws being legislated in different places for one matter, and 2) different laws applying because different kinds of matter are created in different places.
In the indented quote above from Newton, "...different densities and forces" is ambiguous. I might mean that the quantities of force are different because the densities of composite bodies are different, or it could mean that the forces are different because the nature/essence of the matter is different.

Eric Schliesser

Ah this is interesting, Alan.
In the first edition of the Principia, Newton is clearly committed to a homogeneous account of matter compatible with your 1). But he drops that hypothesis in later editions, and I think he shifts to something like 2) in the queries of the optics or, at least, that's how I interpret the passage from the queries.
I don't think Newton thinks the essence of matter is different in different worlds (because he seems to think the essence of matter is a conceptual truth); although he might think that other qualities are.....

Eric Schliesser

First a clarification (in light of your second comment, Marius), prior to Whewell, the debate is primarily among the system of chance, the system of necessity, and the system of mind/orderer. [I think mature Kant and Hume complicate the story but let's leave that aside.]
Second, of these three only the system of necessity requires uniformity. But both the system of chance and mind are compatible with dappled world or uniformity.
Third, indeed Whewell thinks that such debates cannot be settled merely by empirical evidence. (He clearly and explicitly appeals to underdetermination --it's funny how Duhem/Quine are given credit--and extra-empirical/scientific principles.)
On your first point. I have to think about it. But I think one can have more primitive inference rules that one does not identify with the laws of nature. Now, (a) that does leave us with an interesting question if the laws of nature are different in kind or merely degree from the more primitive inference rules one uses in reasoning; (b) it does leave an interesting question whether any of the three approaches can explain that difference between primitive inference rules and more substantive laws of nature; (b) Whewell thinks God is a good explanation for the character of laws of nature (this style of argument is also in Clarke, who does allow that one can ask a further question about explaining God). Descartes and Spinoza also offer, quite different, accounts of the way laws are ground in God. So, I think the explanatory demand can be recognized.

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