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Does anyone have an argument that can refute the following statement?

In a deterministic world, historical explanation cannot be different from "initial condition - covering law explanation."

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Challenge

Does anyone have an argument that can refute the following statement?

In a deterministic world, historical explanation cannot be different from "initial condition - covering law explanation."

Response

It is logically possible for a world to be completely deterministic without covering laws. This is so because a completely deterministic world could be subject to singular causation throughout.

Here's an elaboration of how to split determinism from covering laws:

It seems to me perfectly conceivable that a particular event causes another without there being any law covering them. Imagine a universe consisting of a single particle which moves around in a totally chaotic way; the particle's state SI at a certain time in no way determines (not even probabilistically) its state S2 at a later time. Since by assumption such a universe is totally chaotic, the particle's motion would not be law- governed. Yet S1 could be the cause of S2.

Indeed, Wesley Salmon's recent account of causation in terms of processes allows one to be able to say just that. According to Salmon, a particle in motion is the paradigm example of a causal process. What makes its motion causal is its ability to carry information and its own structure, not that the motion is law-governed. Of course, this does not mean that causal processes cannot be governed by any laws. But whether they are or not is a different question from their being causal. Salmon's account enables us to speak of causal relationships without necessarily basing them on any laws.

A notion of causality in terms of the (continuous) evolution of states is consistent with much of modern philosophy and science (perhaps with the exception of quantum mechanics where the continuity seems to break down). According to Margenau and van Fraassen, "Causality as evolution of states" is one of the four major conceptions and a special case of "causality as physical continuity of events". They point out that such a view "entails no logical difficulties and is accepted in most contemporary versions of causality" (1968, p.320). Now if "causality as evolution of states" is free of logical difficulties and if the distinctive character of a causal process is its ability to carry information and its own structure, then a conception of singular causation with- out law is free of logical difficulties as well.

A universe in which there are causal events without being determined by any law is not only logically possible, but also physically realizable as well. Why should we think that such a universe is determined by laws (deterministic or probabilistic) to its minutest detail? Why think that there are enough laws to cover every event, every state and process? As Cartwright (1983, p.19) says, God may have "the untidy mind of the English"; he might have created a world in which laws are scarce. In that case the Humean is committed to holding that because there are not enough covering laws, the uncovered events cannot be causally related to one another. Some events then must be uncaused. But it is equally plausible to hold, contra Humeans, that this event caused that event but that the causal relation was not determined by any law. (Why should God be that untidy?) The Humean therefore insists that the universe is either completely ordered in the sense that events are causally related only if they are law-governed, or else that if there are some events which are not determined by any law they must be uncaused. But surely there is a third alternative, namely, a universe in which there are at least some events which are causally related even though they are not law-governed. Such a universe is physically possible for the simple reason that we do not have any "higher-order law" which prohibits its existence, that is, a law which requires that there be a law for every cause-effect pair. Searching for covering laws then is at best a methodological maxim which guides our scientific practice, without carrying any ontological commitments.

(Gürol Irzik, 'Singular Causation and Law', PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Vol. 1990, Volume One: Contributed Papers (1990), pp. 537-543: 537-8; Salmon, W. C. (1984), Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World. Princeton: Princeton University Press; and Cartwright, N. (1983), How the Laws of Physics Lie. Oxford: Clarendon Press.)

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