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Contemporary Encounters with Ancient Metaphysics$
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Abraham Jacob Greenstine and Ryan J. Johnson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474412094

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474412094.001.0001

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On Causality and Law in Lucretius and Contemporary Cosmology

On Causality and Law in Lucretius and Contemporary Cosmology

Chapter:
(p.254) Chapter 14 On Causality and Law in Lucretius and Contemporary Cosmology
Source:
Contemporary Encounters with Ancient Metaphysics
Author(s):

David Webb

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474412094.003.0014

David Webb’s “On Causality and Law in Lucretius and Contemporary Cosmology” argues that the laws of physics, rather than being immutable, must instead be subordinate to and coordinated by local regularities of causality. Webb develops this idea through a reading of the contemporary cosmology of Unger and Smolin, who seek to address problems of contemporary physics by undermining the presuppositions of scientific absolutism. Webb finds these ideas in Lucretius, who postulates that the motion of atoms is fundamentally a matter of chance. Law-like regularity indeed emerges, but only through the chance coming into being of systems that exhibit stability and a degree of recursion. This stability is never universally binding, but itself may fall apart at some time. Webb concludes by considering Michel Serres’ reconceiving of physical laws as neither universal nor immutable.

Keywords:   Causality, Law, Lucretius, Serres, Smolin and Unger, Clinamen, Atoms, Cosmology

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