Edward J. Hall
On leave AY 2018-19
Research Interests: Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Science
I work on a range of topics in metaphysics and epistemology that overlap with philosophy of science. (Which is to say: the best topics in metaphysics and epistemology.) Are there “fundamental” laws of nature? What are they – as distinct, say, from accidentally true generalizations, or the causal generalizations that seem to figure in the special sciences? Suppose it’s a truism that one of the central aims of scientific inquiry is to uncover the causal structure of our world (at many different time- and length-scales); what does “causal structure” need to mean, for this truism to be not merely true but illuminating? What are the varieties of probability, and can any of them be said to be properly “objective”? What would it take for one science to “reduce” to another? Must fundamental physics have an intelligible ontology – and if so, what does this constraint amount to? Is there any need for a conception of ‘metaphysical possibility’ that outstrips physical possibility? Can there be any basis for skepticism about unobservable structure that is not also, and equally, a basis for skepticism about unobserved structure? (And so on.) I firmly believe that philosophical discourse always goes better if the parties involved resolutely avoid any “burden-shifting” maneuvers, and that teaching always goes better if you bring cookies.