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Ideas of Alexander Bird, by Text

[British, b.1964, At the University of Edinburgh, then Professor at Bristol University.]

1998 Philosophy of Science
p.264 Relativity ousted Newtonian mechanics despite a loss of simplicity
p.278 In Newton mass is conserved, but in Einstein it can convert into energy
Intro p.19 Any conclusion can be drawn from an induction, if we use grue-like predicates
Intro p.20 Several months of observing beech trees supports the deciduous and evergreen hypotheses
Ch.1 p.28 'All uranium lumps are small' is a law, but 'all gold lumps are small' is not
Ch.1 p.30 There can be remarkable uniformities in nature that are purely coincidental
Ch.1 p.31 A law might have no instances, if it was about things that only exist momentarily
Ch.1 p.32 If laws are just instances, the law should either have gaps, or join the instances arbitrarily
Ch.1 p.35 Where is the regularity in a law predicting nuclear decay?
Ch.1 p.39 A regularity is only a law if it is part of a complete system which is simple and strong
Ch.1 p.43 There may be many laws, each with only a few instances
Ch.1 p.44 Laws cannot explain instances if they are regularities, as something can't explain itself
Ch.1 p.49 We can only infer a true regularity if something binds the instances together
Ch.1 p.49 Similar appearance of siblings is a regularity, but shared parents is what links them
Ch.2 p.62 Explanations are causal, nomic, psychological, psychoanalytic, Darwinian or functional
Ch.2 p.64 Maybe explanation is so subjective that it cannot be a part of science
Ch.2 p.64 The objective component of explanations is the things that must exist for the explanation
Ch.2 p.65 Laws are more fundamental in science than causes, and laws will explain causes
Ch.2 p.66 We talk both of 'people' explaining things, and of 'facts' explaining things
Ch.2 p.69 Probabilistic-statistical explanations don't entail the explanandum, but makes it more likely
Ch.2 p.72 Explanation predicts after the event; prediction explains before the event
Ch.2 p.73 'Covering law' explanations only work if no other explanations are to be found
Ch.2 p.74 Livers always accompany hearts, but they don't explain hearts
Ch.2 p.76 An operation might reduce the probability of death, yet explain a death
Ch.2 p.78 Contrastive explanations say why one thing happened but not another
Ch.2 p.87 Newton's laws cannot be confirmed individually, but only in combinations
Ch.2 p.88 Parapsychology is mere speculation, because it offers no mechanisms for its working
Ch.3 p.99 Nominal essence of a natural kind is the features that make it fit its name
Ch.3 p.105 Jadeite and nephrite are superficially identical, but have different composition
Ch.3 p.106 Rubies and sapphires are both corundum, with traces of metals varying their colours
Ch.3 p.107 In the Kripke-Putnam view only nuclear physicists can know natural kinds
Ch.3 p.107 Tin is not one natural kind, but appears to be 21, depending on isotope
Ch.3 p.111 Natural kinds may overlap, or be sub-kinds of one another
Ch.3 p.111 Membership of a purely random collection cannot be used as an explanation
Ch.3 p.113 If F is a universal appearing in a natural law, then Fs form a natural kind
Ch.3 p.113 Existence requires laws, as inertia or gravity are needed for mass or matter
Ch.3 p.117 Darwinism suggests that we should have a native ability to detect natural kinds
Ch.3 p.119 Natural kinds are those that we use in induction
Ch.3 p.119 Induction is inference to the best explanation, where the explanation is a law
Ch.4 p.124 Realists say their theories involve truth and the existence of their phenomena
Ch.4 p.125 Instrumentalists regard theories as tools for prediction, with truth being irrelevant
Ch.4 p.130 Instrumentalists say distinctions between observation and theory vanish with ostensive definition
Ch.4 p.138 Anti-realism is more plausible about laws than about entities and theories
Ch.4 p.146 Inference to the Best Explanation is done with facts, so it has to be realist
Ch.4 p.150 As science investigates more phenomena, the theories it needs decreases
Ch.4 p.157 Maybe bad explanations are the true ones, in this messy world
Ch.4 p.157 Which explanation is 'best' is bound to be subjective, and no guide to truth
Ch.5 p.168 If flame colour is characteristic of a metal, that is an empirical claim needing justification
Ch.5 p.172 Anything justifying inferences from observed to unobserved must itself do that
Ch.5 p.172 If Hume is right about induction, there is no scientific knowledge
Ch.5 p.174 If theories need observation, and observations need theories, how do we start?
Ch.6 p.188 Subjective probability measures personal beliefs; objective probability measures the chance of an event happening
Ch.6 p.190 Objective probability of tails measures the bias of the coin, not our beliefs about it
Ch.6 p.203 Bayesianism claims to find rationality and truth in induction, and show how science works
Ch.7 p.224 We normally learn natural kinds from laws, but Goodman shows laws require prior natural kinds
Ch.7 p.235 Many philosophers rate justification as a more important concept than knowledge
Ch.8 p.239 Accidental regularities are not laws, and an apparent regularity may not be actual
Ch.8 p.239 With strange enough predicates, anything could be made out to be a regularity
Ch.8 p.239 If we only infer laws from regularities among observations, we can't infer unobservable entities.
Ch.8 p.259 There is no agreement on scientific method - because there is no such thing
Ch.8 p.281 Kuhn came to accept that all scientists agree on a particular set of values
Ch.8 p.289 Reference to scientific terms is by explanatory role, not by descriptions
2007 Nature's Metaphysics
p.17 Only real powers are fundamental
1.2 p.6 The plausible Barcan formula implies modality in the actual world
1.2 p.7 If all properties are potencies, and stimuli and manifestation characterise them, there is a regress
10.1 p.208 Laws are explanatory relationships of things, which supervene on their essences
2.1.2 p.15 Resemblance itself needs explanation, presumably in terms of something held in common
2.1.2 p.18 Laws cannot offer unified explanations if they don't involve universals
2.2.3 p.25 A disposition is finkish if a time delay might mean the manifestation fizzles out p.29 A robust pot attached to a sensitive bomb is not fragile, but if struck it will easily break
3.1 p.44 Categorical properties are not modally fixed, but change across possible worlds
3.1 p.44 Even if all properties are categorical, they may be denoted by dispositional predicates
3.1.2 p.46 Dispositional essentialism says laws (and laws about laws) are guaranteed regularities
3.1.2 p.48 If the laws necessarily imply p, that doesn't give a new 'nomological' necessity
3.1.2 p.48 Logical necessitation is not a kind of necessity; George Orwell not being Eric Blair is not a real possibility
3.2.2 p.52 If the universals for laws must be instantiated, a vanishing particular could destroy a law
3.2.2 p.55 Why should a universal's existence depend on instantiation in an existing particular?
3.2.4 p.59 We can't reject all explanations because of a regress; inexplicable A can still explain B
3.4 p.64 Laws are either disposition regularities, or relations between properties
3.4 p.64 Essentialism can't use conditionals to explain regularities, because of possible interventions
4.1 p.67 The categoricalist idea is that a property is only individuated by being itself
4.2.1 p.71 Haecceitism says identity is independent of qualities and without essence
4.2.1 n71 p.71 We should explain causation by powers, not powers by causation
4.2.1 n71 p.71 Singularism about causes is wrong, as the universals involved imply laws p.81 If we abstractly define a property, that doesn't mean some object could possess it
4.3.2 p.86 That other diamonds are hard does not explain why this one is
4.5 p.97 Categoricalists take properties to be quiddities, with no essential difference between them
5.3.3 p.107 The essence of a potency involves relations, e.g. mass, to impressed force and acceleration
5.4 p.109 Megarian actualists deny unmanifested dispositions
5.5 p.114 If naturalism refers to supervenience, that leaves necessary entities untouched
5.5 p.114 If all existents are causally active, that excludes abstracta and causally isolated objects
6.3 p.141 There might be just one fundamental natural property
7.1.2 p.151 To name an abundant property is either a Fregean concept, or a simple predicate
7.3.2 p.163 The relational view of space-time doesn't cover times and places where things could be
8 p.170 Empiricist saw imaginability and possibility as close, but now they seem remote
8.2 p.178 Salt necessarily dissolves in water, because of the law which makes the existence of salt possible
2010 Causation and the Manifestation of Powers
p.162 p.162 The counterfactual approach makes no distinction between cause and pre-condition
p.167 p.167 The dispositional account explains causation, as stimulation and manifestation of dispositions
p.167 p.167 Causation seems to be an innate concept (or acquired very early)