Do Ceteris Paribus Laws Exist? A Regularity-Based Best System Analysis
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This paper argues that ceteris paribus (cp) laws exist based on a Lewisian best system analysis of lawhood (BSA). Furthermore, it shows that a BSA faces a second trivialization problem besides the one identified by Lewis. The first point concerns an argument against cp laws by Earman and Roberts. The second point aims to help making some assumptions of the BSA explicit. To address the second trivialization problem, a restriction in terms of natural logical constants is proposed that allows one to describe regularities, as specified by basic generics (e.g. ‘birds can fly’) and universals (e.g. ‘all birds can fly’). It is argued that cp laws rather than strict laws might be a part of the the best system of such a regularity-based BSA, since sets of cp laws can be both (a) simpler and (b) stronger when reconstructed as generic non-material conditionals. Yet, if sets of cp laws might be a part of the best system of a BSA and thus qualify as proper laws of nature, it seems reasonable to conclude that at least some cp laws qualify as proper laws of nature.
KeywordsLogical Constant Indicative Conditional Trivialization Problem Natural Language Generic Bare Plural
This work was carried out as a part of the DFG Research Unit FOR 1063 and supported by the DFG Grant SCHU1566/7-1. I thank Alexander Reutlinger, Markus Schrenk, Ludwig Fahrbach, Gerhard Schurz, Paul Thorn, Nancy Cartwright, Michael Strevens, Wolfgang Spohn, Kevin Kelly, Vera Hoffmann-Kolss, and Andreas Hüttemann for their valuable comments. In addition, I greatfully acknowledge two anonymous reviewers for their substantial comments, which pushed me towards a clearer and more thorough exposition of the present ideas.
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