## Friday, July 26, 2024

### Perfect nomic correlations

Here is an interesting special case of Ockham’s Razor:

1. If we find that of nomic necessity whenever A occurs, so does B, then it is reasonable to assume that B is not distinct from A.

Here are three examples.

1. We learn from Newton and Einstein that inertial mass and gravitational mass always have the same value. So by (1) we should suppose them to be one property, rather than two properties that are nomically correlated.

2. In a Newtonian context consider the hypothesis of a gravitational field. Because the gravitational field values at any point are fully determined by the positions and masses of material objects, (1) tells us that it’s reasonable to assume the gravitational field isn’t some additional entity beyond the positions and masses of material objects.

3. Suppose that we find that mental states supervene on physical states: that there is no difference in mental states without a corresponding difference in physical states. Then by (1) it’s reasonable to expect that mental states are not distinct from physical states. (This is of course more controversial than (A) and (B).)

But now consider that in a deterministic theory, future states occur of nomic necessity given past states. Thus, (1) makes it reasonable to reduce future states to past states: What it is for the universe to be in state S7 at time t7 is nothing but the universe’s being in state S0 at time t0 and the pair (S7,t7) having such-and-such a mathematical relationship to the pair (S0,t0). Similarly, entities that don’t exist at the beginning of the universe can be reduced to the initial state of the universe—we are thus reducible. This consequence of (1) will seem rather absurd to many people.

What should we do? One move is to embrace the consequence and conclude that indeed if we find good evidence for determinism, it will be reasonable to reduce the present to the past. I find this implausible.

Another move is to take the above argument as evidence against determinism.

Yet another move is to restrict (1) to cases where B occurs at the same time as A. This restriction is problematic in a relativistic context, since simultaneity is relative. Probably the better version of the move is to restrict (1) to cases where B occurs at the same time and place as A. Interestingly, this will undercut the gravitational field example (B). Moreover, because it is not clear that mental states have a location in space, this may undercut application (C) to mental staes.

A final move is either to reject (1) or, more modestly, to claim that the the evidence provided by nomic coincidence is pretty weak and defeasible on the basis of intuitions, such as our intuition that the present does not reduce to the past. In either case, application (C) is in question.

In any case, it is interesting to note that thinking about determinism gives us some reason to be suspicious of (1), and hence of the argument for mental reduction in (C).