Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 207-218

First online:

Hempel’s Provisos and Ceteris Paribus Clauses

  • Christopher H. EliotAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Hofstra University Email author 

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The problem of ceteris paribus clauses and Hempel’s problem of provisos are closely-related difficulties. Both challenge advocates of accounts of scientific theories involving laws understood as universal generalizations, and they have been treated as identical problems. Earman and Roberts argue that the problems are distinct. Towards arguing against them, I characterize the relationship between Hempel’s provisos and one way of expressing ceteris paribus clauses. I then describe the relationship between the problems attributed to the clauses, suggesting that they form a single problem-cluster. However, Hempel’s way of formulating provisos and discussing what they involve entangles provisos with the problem of skepticism. This creates a departure in Hempel’s discussion of provisos from the distinctive problem of vacuity which characterizes the problem of ceteris paribus clauses, though for different reasons than Earman and Roberts suggest.


Hempel, Carl Gustav Provisos Ceteris paribus clauses Exceptions Deductivism Scientific laws Skepticism Vacuity