Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 359-374

First online:

Physical explanations and biological explanations, empirical laws and a priori laws

  • Joel PressAffiliated withPhilosophy Department, California University of Pennsylvania Email author 

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Philosophers intent upon characterizing the difference between physics and biology often seize upon the purported fact that physical explanations conform more closely to the covering law model than biological explanations. Central to this purported difference is the role of laws of nature in the explanations of these two sciences. However, I argue that, although certain important differences between physics and biology can be highlighted by differences between physical and biological explanations, these differences are not differences in the degree to which those explanations conform to the covering law model, which fits biology about as well as it does physics.


Biological laws Physical laws Covering law Deductive-nomological Empirical laws A priori laws Dispositions Rosenberg Sober Kitcher