, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 303–328

There is No Such Thing as a Ceteris Paribus Law

  • James Woodward

DOI: 10.1023/A:1021578127039

Cite this article as:
Woodward, J. Erkenntnis (2002) 57: 303. doi:10.1023/A:1021578127039


In this paper I criticize the commonly accepted idea that the generalizations of the special sciences should be construed as ceteris paribus laws. This idea rests on mistaken assumptions about the role of laws in explanation and their relation to causal claims. Moreover, the major proposals in the literature for the analysis of ceteris paribus laws are, on their own terms, complete failures. I sketch a more adequate alternative account of the content of causal generalizations in the special sciences which I argue should replace the ceteris paribus conception.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Woodward
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, 101-40California Institute of TechnologyPasadenaU.S.A.