What if there are laws of nature? Reflections on van Fraassen’s Laws and Symmetry
Bas van Fraassen’s Law and Symmetry is a tour de force. Thirty years after its appearance, it remains as fresh and topical as when it was published. Not only does it offer a systematic and thorough critique of all the then extant philosophical theories of lawhood, it also poses two problems—the inference problem and the identification problem—that any theory of laws of nature should solve, if it is to be an adequate theory. The book is a gem when it comes to the issues of probability and chance in science. It also advances some of the major themes that constitute van Fraassen’s empiricist approach to science: the critique of inference to the best explanation as a rule of belief revision; the new voluntarist epistemology; the semantic view of theories; and the role of symmetries in theory construction. In this anniversary review, I will limit my attention to van Fraassen’s criticism of the category of law of nature, which remains as timely as ever.
Metaphysics for post-Kantian...
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