Earman and Roberts (in Synthese 118:439–478, 1999) claim that there is neither a persuasive account of the truth-conditions of ceteris paribus laws, nor of how such laws can be confirmed or disconfirmed. I will give an account of the truth conditions of ceteris paribus laws in physics in terms of dispositions. It will meet the objections standardly raised against such an account. Furthermore I will elucidate how ceteris paribus laws can be tested in physics. The essential point is that physics provides methodologies for dealing with disturbing factors. For this reason disturbing factors need not be listed explicitly in law-statements. In virtue of the methodologies it is possible to test how systems would behave if the disturbing factors were absent. I will argue that this suffices to establish the tenability of the dispositional account of ceteris paribus laws.
KeywordsCategorical Property Compound System Dispositional Property Trigger Condition Ideal Crystal
I would like to thank three anonymous referees as well as John Roberts, the editors of this volume and the audience of the workshop on “Semantics and Pragmatics of Ceteris Paribus Conditions” in Düsseldorf for helpful comments. I would furthermore like to thank the DFG for sponsoring the research group “Causation, Dispositions, Laws and Explanations at the Interface of Philosophy of Science and Metaphysics”, which organized the workshop.
- Ashcroft, N. W., & Mermin, N. D. (1976). Solid state physics. Philadelphia.Google Scholar
- Bohm, A. (1986). Quantum mechanics: Foundations and applications. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Cartwright, N. (1989). Nature’s capacities and their measurement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Choi, S., & Fara, M. (2012). Dispositions. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition). http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2012/entries/dispositions/.
- Earman, J., Roberts, J., & Smith, S. (2002). Ceteris Paribus lost. In J. Earman et al. (Eds.), Ceteris Paribus laws. Erkenntnis 52, 281–301.Google Scholar
- Hüttemann, A. (2009) Dispositions in physics. In G. Damschen, R. Schnepf, & K. Stueber (Eds.), Debating dispositions. Issues in metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind (pp. 223–237). New York: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
- Mill, J. S. (1836)/2008. On the definition and method of political economy. In D. Hausman (Ed.), The philosophy of economics. An anthology, 3rd edn (pp. 41–58). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Molnar, G. (2003). Powers, Oxford.Google Scholar
- Newton, I. (1999). The Principia (Transl. I. B. Cohen and A. Whitman) Berkeley.Google Scholar
- Pietroski, P., & Rey, G. (1995). When other things aren’t equal: Saving ceteris paribus laws from vacuity. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 46, 81–110.Google Scholar
- Schurz, G. Ceteris Paribus and Ceteris Rectis Laws: Content and causal role. Erkenntnis, this volume.Google Scholar