, Volume 79, Supplement 10, pp 1801–1817 | Cite as

Ceteris Paribus and Ceteris Rectis Laws: Content and Causal Role

  • Gerhard SchurzEmail author
Original Article


This paper has three goals. The first goal is to work out the difference between literal ceteris paribus (cp) laws in the sense of “all others being equal” and ceteris rectis (cr) “laws” in the sense of “all others being right” (Sects. 2, 4). While cp laws involve a universal quantification, cr generalizations involve an existential quantification over the values of the remainder variables Z. As a result, the two differ crucially in their confirmability and lawlikeness. The second goal is to provide a classification of different kinds of cr generalizations (indefinite, definite and normic), including certain transition cases between cr generalizations and cp laws (Sect. 3). The third goal is to work out what cp laws and all kinds of cr assertions have in common: they figure as an information source for assertions of causal influence between variables (Sect. 5).


Definite Description Causal Influence Random Experiment Existential Quantifier Existential Quantification 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



For valuable discussion I am grateful to Nancy Cartwright, Alexander Gebharter, Andreas Hüttemann, Bernhard Nickel, Jeff Pelletier, Alexander Reutlinger, Jonah Schupbach, Wolfgang Spohn, Michael Strevens, Paul Thorn and Matthias Unterhuber.


  1. Albert, H., Arnold, D., & Maier-Rigaud, F. (2012). Model platonism: Neoclassical economic thought in critical light. Journal of Institutional Economics, 8(3), 293–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong, D. M. (1983). What is a law of nature? Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrow, G. M. (1979). Physical chemistry. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  4. Cartwright, N. (1989). Nature’s capacities and their measurement. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  5. Earman, J., & Roberts, J. (1999). Ceteris paribus, there is no problem of provisos. Synthese, 118, 439–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fodor, J. (1991). You can fool some of the people all of the time. Mind, 100, 19–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. French, A. P. (2007). Special relativity. New York: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  8. Goodman, N. (1955). Fact, fiction and forecast. Cambridge/MA: Harvard Univ Press. 2005.Google Scholar
  9. Joseph, G. (1980). The many sciences and the one world. Journal of Philosophy, 77(12), 773–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lewis, D. (1973). Counterfactuals. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. Machlup, F. (1957). Professor Hick’s revision of demand theory. The American Economic Review, 47(1), 135–199.Google Scholar
  12. Marshall, A. (1890). Principles of economics (8th ed.). Macmillan: London.Google Scholar
  13. Nagel, E. (1977). Teleology revisited. Journal of Philosophy, 74(5), 261–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Nickel, B. (2014). The role of kinds in the semantics of Ceteris Paribus Laws, Erkenntnis. doi: 10.1007/s10670-014-9638-5.
  15. Pearl, J. (2009). Causality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Reichenbach, H. (1956). The direction of time. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.Google Scholar
  17. Reutlinger, A., Schurz, G., & Hüttemann, A. (2011). “Ceteris Paribus laws”, The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),
  18. Reutlinger, A. (2014). “Do Statistical Laws Solve the ‘Problem of Provisos’?”, Erkenntnis. doi: 10.1007/s10670-014-9640-y.
  19. Roberts, J. (2014). CP-law statements as vague, self-referential, self-locating, statistical, and perfectly in order. Erkenntnis. doi: 10.1007/s10670-014-9641-x.
  20. Schurz, G. (2001). What is ‘normal’? An evolution-theoretic foundation of normic laws. Philosophy of Science, 28, 476–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Schurz, G. (2002). Ceteris paribus laws: Classification and deconstruction. Erkenntnis, 57(3), 351–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Schurz, G. (2014). Philosophy of science: A unified view. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Spirtes, P., Glymour, C., & Scheines, R. (2000). Causation, prediction, and search. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Strevens, M. (2008). Depth. An account of scientific explanation. Cambridge: Harvard Univ Press.Google Scholar
  25. Unterhuber, M. (2014). Do ceteris paribus laws exist? A regularity-based best system analysis, Erkenntnis. doi: 10.1007/s10670-014-9645-6.
  26. Woodward, J. (2003). Making things happen. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany

Personalised recommendations