Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 359–374

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


DOI: 10.1007/s10539-007-9096-4

Cite this article as:
Press, J. Biol Philos (2009) 24: 359. doi:10.1007/s10539-007-9096-4


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 lawsPhysical lawsCovering lawDeductive-nomologicalEmpirical lawsA priori lawsDispositionsRosenbergSoberKitcher

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentCalifornia University of PennsylvaniaCaliforniaUSA