Humeanism and Exceptions in the Fundamental Laws of Physics


  • Billy Wheeler University College London



It has been argued that the fundamental laws of physics do not face a ‘problem of provisos’ equivalent to that found in other scientific disciplines (Earman, Roberts and Smith 2002) and there is only the appearance of exceptions to physical laws if they are confused with differential equations of evolution type (Smith 2002). In this paper I argue that even if this is true, fundamental laws in physics still pose a major challenge to standard Humean approaches to lawhood, as they are not in any obvious sense about regularities in behaviour. A Humean approach to physical laws with exceptions is possible, however, if we adopt a view of laws that takes them to be the algorithms in the algorithmic compressions of empirical data. When this is supplemented with a distinction between lossy and lossless compression, we can explain exceptions in terms of compression artefacts present in the application of the lossy laws.

Author Biography

Billy Wheeler, University College London

Teaching Fellow in the Department for Science and Technology Studies