What is a Law of Nature?

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Cambridge University Press, May 30, 1985 - Philosophy - 180 pages
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This is a study of a crucial and controversial topic in metaphysics and the philosophy of science: the status of the laws of nature. D. M. Armstrong works out clearly and in comprehensive detail a largely original view that laws are relations between properties or universals. The theory is continuous with the views on universals and more generally with the scientific realism that Professor Armstrong has advanced in earlier publications. He begins here by mounting an attack on the orthodox and sceptical view deriving from Hume that laws assert no more than a regularity of coincidence between instances of properties. In doing so he presents what may become the definitive statement of the case against this position. Professor Armstrong then goes on to establish his own theory in a systematic manner defending it against the most likely objections, and extending both it and the related theory of universals to cover functional and statistical laws. This treatment of the subject is refreshingly concise and vivid: it will both stimulate vigorous professional debate and make an excellent student text.
 

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Contents

Introductory
3
2 A POSSIBLE DIFFICULTY IN INVESTIGATING OUR TOPIC
5
3 ASSUMPTIONS
7
4 THE REGULARITY THEORY
9
Critique of the Regularity theory 1 The problem of accidental uniformities
11
2 CLASSIFICATION OF CRITICISMS OF THE REGULARITY THEORY
12
3 SINGLECASE UNIFORMITIES
13
4 HOW TO PASS FROM SINGLECASE UNIFORMITIES TO MULTICASE UNIFORMITIES
15
5 CAUSATION AS A RELATION BETWEEN PARTICULARS
93
6 NECESSITATION UNIVERSALS AND LAWS
96
7 ADVANTAGES AND SOME DISADVANTAGES OF CONCEIVING OF LAWS OF NATURE AS RELATIONS BETWEEN UNIVERSALS
99
8 BRAITHWAITES AND POPPERS ARGUMENT
107
Functional laws
111
Uninstantiated laws
117
2 TOOLEYS CONCLUSIONS
118
3 TOOLEYS CASES SOLVED BY THE INTRODUCTION OF POWERS?
121

5 HOW TO PASS FROM LOCAL UNIFORMITIES TO HUMEAN UNIFORMITIES
17
7 HUMEAN UNIFORMITIES WITH NONEXISTENT SUBJECTS
19
Critique of the Regularity theory 2
24
2 LOCAL UNIFORMITIES AS LAWS
26
3 INFINITELY QUALIFIED LAWS
27
4 PROBABILISTIC LAWS
29
THE RETREAT TO POSITIVISM
35
6 FUNCTIONAL LAWS
37
Critique of the Regularity theory 3
39
2 LAWS OF NATURE AS PRINCIPLES OF EXPLANATION
40
3 THE PARADOXES OF CONFIRMATION
41
4 THE PROBLEM OF COUNTERFACTUALS
46
5 THE PROBLEM OF INDUCTION
52
Can the Regularity theory be sophisticated?
60
2 EPISTEMIC RESTRICTION UPON UNIFORMITIES
61
3 THE RESILIENCY SOLUTION
64
4 SYSTEMATIC RESTRICTIONS UPON UNIFORMITIES
66
Laws of nature as relations between universals
75
Laws of nature as relations between universals
77
2 THE THEORY OF UNIVERSALS
81
3 A FIRST FORMULATION
85
4 LAWS AS UNIVERSALS
88
4 A SCEPTICAL TREATMENT OF TOOLEYS CASES
123
5 UNINSTANTIATED LAWS WITH NOMICALLY IMPOSSIBLE ANTECEDENTS
126
Probabilistic laws
128
2 PROBABILISTIC LAWS AS PROBABILITIES OF NECESSITATION
131
3 OTHER TYPES OF PROBABILISTIC LAWS
135
Further considerations concerning the form of laws
137
2 LAWS WITH UNIVERSAL SCOPE
140
3 ARE THERE ANY EXCLUSION LAWS?
143
4 IRON LAWS AND OAKEN LAWS
147
5 DISJUNCTIVE LAWS
150
6 DO LAWS ALWAYS LINK THE PROPERTIES OF THE SAME OBJECT?
153
7 FORMAL PROPERTIES OF NECESSITATION
155
Are the laws of nature necessary or contingent?
158
1 ARGUMENTS FOR THE NECESSITY OF LAWS
159
2 STRONG NECESSITY
163
3 WEAK NECESSITY
166
4 UNINSTANTIATED LAWS
169
Conclusions
172
Works cited
174
Index
177
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