Laws of Nature as Constraints

Emily AdlamRotman Institute and Western University

Tuesday, September 6, 2022
1:00pm–3:00pm (East Coast time)

[Registration Form] (Abstract and Video Below)

• The Foundations of Physics @Harvard series is co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy
• This is a free Zoom event (no registration fee)
• The meeting ID and password will be shared with those who register
• Each talk will be 1 hour, followed by a 5-minute break and then 55 minutes for questions
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Questions or comments: Jacob Barandes, firstname_lastname(at) (organizer)

Video (YouTube)
Slides (PDF)


Open Discussion and Q&A


The laws of nature have come a long way since the time of Newton: quantum mechanics and relativity have given us good reasons to take seriously the possibility of laws which may be non-local, atemporal, `all-at-once,' retrocausal, or in some other way not well-suited to the dynamical time evolution paradigm. But many extant realist approaches to lawhood are based on the paradigm of dynamical laws, and thus they face significant challenges when we try to apply them to laws outside the time evolution picture. I will argue that an appropriate generalization of lawhood can be given by conceptualizing it in terms of modal structure, and I will present a general framework in which the modal structure associated with a wide class of possible laws can be expressed and studied. I will then describe several interesting applications of this framework, showing how it can be used to generalize concepts like determinism and objective chance beyond the dynamical paradigm.