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Readings On Laws Of Nature

Readings On Laws Of Nature

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Readings On Laws Of Nature
    Book Description:

    As a subject of inquiry, laws of nature exist in the overlap between metaphysics and the philosophy of science. Over the past three decades, this area of study has become increasingly central to the philosophy of science. It also has relevance to a variety of topics in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and epistemology.

    Readings on Laws of Natureis the first anthology to offer a contemporary history of the problem of laws. The book is organized around three key issues: the matter of distinguishing laws from mere correlations, questions concerning inductive reasoning and laws, and the consideration of whether there are anytruelaws in science.

    Designed for class use, the anthology covers a remarkably broad range of views and concerns, and consists exclusively of articles that have proved highly influential in the field.Readings on Laws of Naturewill also serve as a valuable research and reference tool for philosophers who do not specialize in the subject, but who have occasion to examine concepts relating to the laws of nature in their own work.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-8009-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    Four issues are central to this collection. First and foremost, there is the puzzling distinction between laws of nature and accidentally true generalizations. Second, there is the matter of how laws connect with the problem of induction. Third is the question of whether laws are sometimes contingent truths or whether they are always necessary truths. (This matter of the modality of laws plays a lesser role than do the other three.) Fourth, there is the topic of whether there really are any strict laws in either fundamental physics or the special sciences. Each of these four issues receives a preliminary...

  2. 1 Laws of Nature
    (pp. 16-37)

    It is tempting to identify the laws of nature with a certain class of universal truths. Very few empiricists have succeeded in resisting this temptation. The popular way of succumbing is to equate the fundamental laws of nature with what is asserted by those universally true statements of nonlimited scope that embody only qualitative predicates.¹ On this view of things a law-like statement is a statement of the form “(x)(FxGx)” or “(x)(FxGx)” where“F”and“G”are purely qualitative (nonpositional). Those law-like statements that are true express laws. “All robins’ eggs are greenish blue,” “All metals...

  3. 2 The Nature of Laws
    (pp. 38-70)

    This paper is concerned with the question of the truth conditions of nomological statements. My fundamental thesis is that it is possible to set out an acceptable, noncircular account of the truth conditions of laws and nomological statements if and only if relations among universals—that is, among properties and relations, construed realistically—are taken as the truth-makers for such statements.

    My discussion will be restricted to strictly universal, nonstatistical laws. The reason for this limitation is not that I feel there is anything dubious about the concept of a statistical law, nor that I feel that basic laws cannot...

  4. 3 Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?
    (pp. 71-83)

    O. Introduction. There is a view about laws of nature that is so deeply entrenched that it doesn’t even have a name of its own. It is the view that laws of nature describe facts about reality. If we think that the facts described by a law obtain, or at least that the facts which obtain are sufficiently like those described in the law, we count the law true, or true-for-the-nonce, until further facts are discovered. I propose to call this doctrine thefacticityview of laws. (The name is due to John Perry.)

    It is customary to take the...

  5. 4 Confirmation and the Nomological
    (pp. 84-97)

    We all suppose that it is sometimes reasonable to project common properties, to argue from the premise that each member of a sample possesses a certain property to the conclusion that members of a population from which the sample is drawn also have that property. Even the most ardent anti-inductivist in the philosophy classroom can be found arguing in just this way when he buys a bottle of wine, takes an aspirin, or is deciding whether to wear a raincoat.

    This fact constitutes a major challenge, for (as everyone knows) instantial confirmation, simple induction, the straight rule—call it what...

  6. 5 Induction, Explanation, and Natural Necessity
    (pp. 98-111)

    I want to examine a possible solution to the problem of induction—one which, as far as I know, has not been discussed elsewhere. The solution makes crucial use of the notion of objective natural necessity. For the purposes of this discussion, I shall assume that this notion is coherent. I am aware that this assumption is controversial, but I do not have space to examine the issue here.

    Ayer is one philosopher who denies that the notion is coherent. But he also claims that even if it were, it would not help in meeting the problem of induction. “If...

  7. 6 Armstrong on Laws and Probabilities
    (pp. 112-134)

    The question of David Armstrong’s recent book,What Is a Law of Nature?would seem to have little point unless there really are laws of nature. However that may be, so much philosophical thinking has utilized this concept, that an inquiry of this sort was needed whether there are or not. The book begins with a devastating attack on so-called Regularity views of law, and then proceeds with an exposition of Armstrong’s own answer to the question. I wish to raise here some difficulties for Armstrong’s answer, concentrating on his account of probabilistic laws where I see the severest problems....

  8. 7 Confirmation and Law-likeness
    (pp. 135-140)

    In this passage fromFact, Fiction, and Forecast, Nelson Goodman suggests that a generalization of the form “allA’s areB” is confirmable by an observed instance (that is, by something observed to be bothAandB) only if the generalization is law-like.¹ Although Goodman has a good deal to say about what makes a generalization law-like, I take it that the basic notion is that law-like generalizations “support counterfactuals”; if “allA’s areB” is law-like, then if the generalization is true, so is the counterfactual “if something were anA, it would also be a B.”


  9. 8 The World as One of a Kind Natural Necessity and Laws of Nature
    (pp. 141-160)

    This world is one of a kind. Some philosophers have maintained that there are many other worlds which are spatially, temporally, and causally unrelated to ours. We are not asserting that there are any such disconnected worlds. Nor do we assert that there are none. There is at least one world; and it is a member of a natural kind whether or not there are any others of its kind. If there were any other world, in addition to this one, or instead of this one, then there would be a nontrivial question whether that world was of the same...

  10. 9 Natural Laws and the Problem of Provisos
    (pp. 161-175)

    According to the regularity account of physical law—versions of which have been advocated by Ayer (1963), Braithwaite (1953, ch. 9), Goodman (1983, pp. 17–27), Hempel (1965a, pp. 264ff.), Lewis (1973, pp. 72–77; 1986), Mackie (1962, pp. 71–73), Nagel (1961, pp. 58ff.), and Reichenbach (1947, ch. 8), among others—laws of nature are regularities among events or states of affairs and a law-statement, the linguistic expression of a law, is a description of a regularity that is a law. The familiar challenge faced by this account is to distinguish those descriptions of regularities that are law-statements from...

  11. 10 Humean Supervenience
    (pp. 176-206)

    Over the last couple of decades David Lewis has been elaborating and defending a metaphysical doctrine he calls “Humean Supervenience” (HS). Here is how he introduces it.

    Humean supervenience is named in honor of the great denier of necessary connections. It is the doctrine that all there is to the world is a vast mosaic of local matters of particular fact, just one little thing and then another…. We have geometry: a system of external relations of spatiotemporal distances between points…. And at those points we have local qualities: perfectly natural intrinsic properties which need nothing bigger than a point...

  12. 11 Ceteris Paribus, There Is No Problem of Provisos
    (pp. 207-249)

    It is often maintained that certain putative laws of nature are not strictly true unless qualified by a proviso to the effect that nothing else interferes, where what would count as an interference cannot be stated explicitly.¹ For example, consider the “law” that when the demand for a product increases while supply remains constant, the price of that product will increase. Stated thus baldly, the generalization is too strong, for there are numerous possible situations in which it would fail to obtain, such as cases of mass irrational behavior, widespread ignorance of the demand on the part of vendors, natural...

  13. 12 The Non-Governing Conception of Laws of Nature
    (pp. 250-276)

    There are two main camps in the debate about the metaphysics of laws of nature. In one corner, there is the anti-Humean view of David Armstrong: laws are relations of necessity between universals.¹ And in the other corner there is the Ramsey-Lewis view: laws are those generalizations which figure in the most economical true axiomatization of all the particular matters of fact that obtain.² The Ramsey-Lewis view counts as a Humean view because it does not postulate any necessary connections. The debate between the rival camps can be read as a debate about whether or not supervenience holds for laws...