Synthese

, Volume 144, Issue 3, pp 381–396 | Cite as

Essentialism and the Necessity of the Laws of Nature

Abstract

In this paper I discuss and evaluate different arguments for the view that the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. I conclude that essentialist arguments from the nature of natural kinds fail to establish that essences are ontologically more basic than laws, and fail to offer an a priori argument for the necessity of all causal laws. Similar considerations carry across to the argument from the dispositionalist view of properties, which may end up placing unreasonable constraints on property identity across possible worlds. None of my arguments preclude the possibility that the laws may turn out to be metaphysically necessary after all, but I argue that this can only be established by a posteriori scientific investigation. I therefore argue for what may seem to be a surprising conclusion: that a fundamental metaphysical question – the modal status of laws of nature – depends on empirical facts rather than purely on a priori reasoning.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Bealer, G. 1987‘The Philosophical Limits of Scientific Essentialism’Philosophical Perspectives1289365Google Scholar
  2. Bird, A. 2001‘Necessarily, Salt Dissolves in Water’Analysis61267274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bird, A. 2002‘On Whether Some Laws are Necessary’Analysis62257270Google Scholar
  4. Bird, A.: forthcoming, ‘A Dispositionalist Conception of Laws’, Foundations of Science.Google Scholar
  5. Cartwright, N. 1989Nature’s Capacities and their MeasurementClarendon PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  6. Elder, C. L. 1994‘Laws, Natures and Contingent Necessities’Philosophy and Phenomenological Research54649667Google Scholar
  7. Ellis, B. 2001Scientific EssentialismCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  8. Ellis, B. 2002The Philosophy of NatureAcumenCheshamGoogle Scholar
  9. Ellis, B., Lierse, C. 1994‘Dispositional Essentialism’Australasian Journal of Philosophy722745Google Scholar
  10. Fine, K. 1994‘Essence and Modality’Philosophical Perspectives8116Google Scholar
  11. Harré, R., Madden, E.H. 1974Causal PowersBlackwellOxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Heil, J. 2005‘Dispositions’Synthese144343356Google Scholar
  13. Lipton, P. 1999‘All Else Being Equal’Philosophy74155168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lowe, E. J. 1989Kinds of BeingBlackwellOxfordGoogle Scholar
  15. Martin, C. B. 1996

    ‘Replies to Armstrong and Place’

    Crane, T. eds. Dispositions: A DebateRoutledgeLondon126146
    Google Scholar
  16. Mumford, S.: forthcoming, Laws in Nature, Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  17. Psillos, S. 2002‘Salt Does Dissolve in Water, but not Necessarily’Analysis62255257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Shoemaker, S. 1980

    ‘Causality and Properties’

    Inwagen, P. eds. Time and CauseD. ReidelDordrecht109135
    Google Scholar
  19. Swoyer, C. 1982‘The Nature of Natural Laws’Australasian Journal of Philosophy60203223Google Scholar
  20. Fraassen, B. 1989Laws and SymmetryClarendon PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  21. Weinberg, S. 1993Dreams of a Final TheoryVintage BooksLondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe University of ReadingReadingU.K

Personalised recommendations