Brief description of the course
The history and metaphysics of the concepts of laws of nature and objective probabilities are closely connected with one another and with main topics in the philosophy and history of science. Fundamental laws of physics, particularly quantum theory and statistical mechanics, posit objective probabilities and it has been debated whether all objective probabilities are ultimately grounded in such laws. Laws and probabilities also figure prominently in the special sciences (e.g. biology, psychology, economics) Understanding the metaphysics of scientific laws and objective probabilities are central concerns of the philosophy of science. Understanding begins with the history of both concepts. The idea that it is a goal, perhaps the primary goal, of the sciences to discover laws arose in the 17th century. Descartes (and various of his contemporaries) conceived of laws as principles that describe how God makes material bodies move. Subsequently, some (e.g. Newton) came to think of laws as themselves governing physical events while others (especially David Hume) came to think of laws not as governing but rather as describing patterns and regularities among events. These two views have developed into the two main philosophical accounts of the metaphysics of laws which are usually called anti-Humean and Humean accounts.
The idea that some events are chancy also arose in the 17th century first to describe the behavior of gambling devices (e.g. Pascal) and later to deal with patterns of events that were either too complicated to account for in terms of laws or were not subject to laws at all. However, in the 20th-century probability was incorporated into the laws of statistical mechanics, evolutionary and genetic theory, and quantum mechanics. The main views concerning the metaphysics of probability mirror the views about laws. Anti-Humean views construe probability as a measure of the propensity of a situation to produce an effect (e.g. the propensity of a lump of radium to emit an alpha particle in a given time period) while Humean views construe probability as describing patterns of events (e.g. the frequency of a lump of radium to emit an alpha particle in a given time period or the probability implied by the Best System).
The first week of the summer school will concern the history and metaphysics of the concept of laws and the second will concern the history and metaphysics of the concept of probability and how objective probability is connected to laws. The metaphysics of laws and probability are also connected to a number of other issues in metaphysics and epistemology including the nature of time, the relations between physics and special sciences, the compatibility of free will and physical laws, and how objective probabilities rationally guide belief. These issues will be discussed throughout the course.
Graduate Students, postdocs, faculty in philosophy, history and the sciences, and a few advanced undergraduate students.
How to Apply
Completed CEU Summer University Application Form
We strongly advise the use of Google Chrome to enable the full functionality of the form.
- You may apply to a maximum of two summer courses. In case of being admitted, you can only attend both if the two courses do not overlap in time. Financial aid, if available, is only granted to attend one course.
- If you applied to CEU before, please use your existing login and password to start a new application. If you do not remember your password from last year click on Forgotten Password.
- Right after login, please select ”Summer University” radiobutton from the "Type of course" list, and leave all other fields empty.
- All application materials must be submitted with the online application form(s). Materials sent by postal mail, electronic mail, or fax are not considered.
- The maximum allowable file size for upload is 2MB per file and the acceptable file formats are PDF, JPG, and JPEG. Ensure all security features (e.g. passwords and encryption) are removed from the documents before uploading them.
- Applications cannot be edited after submission. Please submit your application only when it is 100% final and complete.