Skip to main content

Revaluing Laws of Nature in Secularized Science

Part of the Jerusalem Studies in Philosophy and History of Science book series (JSPS)


Discovering laws of nature was a way to worship a law-giving God, during the Scientific Revolution. So why should we consider it worthwhile now, in our own more secularized science? For historical perspective, I examine two competing early modern theological traditions that related laws of nature to different divine attributes, and their secular legacy in views ranging from Kant and Nietzsche to Humean and ‘governing’ accounts in recent analytic metaphysics. Tracing these branching offshoots of ethically charged God-concepts sheds light on how our ethical ideals and ideas of natural order can still be valuably integrated. Early modern intellectualists valued the law-governed order of nature as a sign of divine Reason. In turn, Reason traditionally ascribed to God has now been partly reclaimed for humans, reframing the value of natural order anthropocentrically, in terms of the value of our own intelligence. Alternatively, Reason may be reclaimed for nature itself, as in an ‘objective’ idealism or metaphysical rationalism. However, beyond divine Reason, an influential voluntarist tradition in theology stressed a connection between laws of nature and God’s Power or free Will. Tracking how divine Power has been reinvested in human beings provides a broader context for instrumentalism and related lineages of empiricism. But secularization can also transfer Power from God to the impersonal natural world. In this light, current scientific interest in lawlike order may also reflect the inherent value of brute necessity or inhuman causal power in nature: this is a deeper way to reject anthropocentrism and to show our respect for the environment.


  • Secularization
  • Science and religion
  • Anthropocentrism
  • Environmental value
  • Intellectualism
  • Voluntarism

I am grateful to Gordon Belot, Yemima Ben-Menahem, Filipa Melo Lopes, Tad Schmaltz, and an audience at Fordham University for helpful feedback on earlier versions of this material.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-96775-8_13
  • Chapter length: 31 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   109.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-96775-8
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Hardcover Book
USD   139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)


  1. 1.

    Many historians locate a rapid rise to prominence of the idea of laws of nature in the seventeenth century, often identifying Descartes as its first major figure. See e.g. Oakley, 1961a, 433; Henry, 2004, 87–88; Garber, 2013, 45; Crombie, 1996, 86–87; Daston & Stolleis, 2008, 2. Joseph Needham (1951a, 29) points to the sixteenth century, too. On pre-sixteenth-century ideas of laws of nature, see also Ruby, 1986; Kedar & Hon, 2017.

  2. 2.

    Letter to Mersenne, 15 April 1630 (Descartes, 1991, 23).

  3. 3.

    Descartes, 1982, 59–62.

  4. 4.

    Query 31 (Newton, 1730, 377–378). See also Newton to Bentley, 10 Dec. 1692 (Cohen, 1958, 280).

  5. 5.

    On historians’ view of Newton on God, see Henry, 1994, 123; Snobelen, 2001, 198. See also note 37.

  6. 6.

    Needham, 1951b, 229. His elaboration that laws are “now thought of” as “descriptions not prescription” (ibid., 229) is belied by ongoing interest in ‘governing’ accounts of laws. See also Needham, 1951a.

  7. 7.

    Westfall, 1986, 234.

  8. 8.

    Compare e.g. Lewis, 1983, 1994; Ramsey, 1978; Loewer, 1996 (‘best system’ accounts); Armstrong, 1983, Armstrong, 1993; Dretske, 1983; Tooley, 1977, 1987 (‘necessitarian’ accounts); Carroll, 1994; Lange, 2000, 2009; Maudlin, 2007 (‘antireductionist’ or ‘primitivist’ accounts). One partial exception is ‘antirealist’ accounts—e.g. Giere (1999, 23) argues that “the original view of science as discovering universal laws of nature had little basis in the actual practice of science, but was imported largely from theology”; so, for Giere, it is natural that ‘laws’ should be purged from secularized science.

  9. 9.

    E.g. see Ben-Menahem & Ben-Menahem, 2020, 53. See also Giere, 1999.

  10. 10.

    Oakley, 1961a, 450–451.

  11. 11.

    Oakley, 1961a, 449 et passim; see also Oakley, 1961b.

  12. 12.

    Henry, 2009, 80.

  13. 13.

    Henry, 2009, 80.

  14. 14.

    Henry, 2009, 80.

  15. 15.

    On Newton’s voluntarism, see Force, 1990, 89; Shapin, 1981; Snobelen, 2001, 176–177. Cf. Harrison, 2004. On voluntarism’s influence on Newton’s teacher, Isaac Barrow, see Malet, 1997. On Boyle vis-à-vis voluntarist views of creation in seventeenth-century England, see Klaaren, 1977. See also Burtt, 1925, 290.

  16. 16.

    On Gassendi’s voluntarism, see Osler, 1991, 157 et passim. See also Osler, 1994. On scholarly debate regarding Descartes, vis-à-vis voluntarism and intellectualism, see note 22 and references therein.

  17. 17.

    Klaaren, 1977, 123.

  18. 18.

    Henry, 2004, 91.

  19. 19.

    Henry, 2004, 91.

  20. 20.

    See especially Harrison, 2002, 2004, 2009.

  21. 21.

    See note 22.

  22. 22.

    Harrison (2002) argues that Descartes was both a rationalist and a voluntarist, and uses this example to “break[] the inexorability of the logic of a connection between voluntarism and empiricism” (Harrison, 2002, 66). Note that others have argued that Descartes is better described as an intellectualist (e.g. Davis, 1991; Osler, 1994). Here I would also echo John Henry (2009, 84): positions like voluntarism and empiricism can be deeply linked, historically and also conceptually, even if there is no “inexorable logic” binding them together—as the case of Descartes arguably illustrates. Cf. Harrison, 2004, 2009.

  23. 23.

    In England, Henry More and his notion of “divine reason” is a plausible example (Klaaren, 1977, 122).

  24. 24.

    Foster, 1934, 1935, 1936. Foster’s focus is on voluntarism. Henry (2009, 79) also invokes Lovejoy’s The Great Chain of Being (Lovejoy, 1936) as a canonical study of the opposing (now ‘intellectualist’) approach.

  25. 25.

    Foster, 1934, 454.

  26. 26.

    Foster, 1934, 461.

  27. 27.

    Foster, 1934, 461.

  28. 28.

    Foster, 1934, 462.

  29. 29.

    Foster, 1934, 462.

  30. 30.

    Foster, 1934, 462.

  31. 31.

    Foster, 1934, 454.

  32. 32.

    Foster, 1936, 2.

  33. 33.

    Foster, 1934, 455 and 463–464.

  34. 34.

    Here I am elaborating more freely on Foster’s account. Compare Plato’s view that Forms are ‘really real Being’ (Phaedrus 247e), ‘more real’ (Republic 515d) than the sensible particulars that participate in them. Note that this does not mean really or more existent—see Vlastos, 1965, 1966; Guthrie, 1975.

  35. 35.

    Foster, 1934, 464.

  36. 36.

    Peter Harrison (2013, 147), a skeptic of ‘voluntarism and science’ hypotheses, stresses that ‘arbitrary’ just meant that “God’s will is not bound by considerations external to him”; still, he allows that the Newtonians here differed from Leibniz, who thought God had to create the best of all possible worlds.

  37. 37.

    Newton scholars disagree on this issue. E.g. Henry (1994), arguing against A. Rupert Hall’s, Alexandre Koyré’s, and I. Bernard Cohen’s view that “Newton relied more or less directly upon God to explain the force of gravity” (Henry, 1994, 125), suggests that Newton did believe in the possibility of gravity as action at a distance, grounded in a non-essential power of attraction superadded to matter by God. Cf. Janiak, 2008, 2013; for responses to Janiak, see Henry, 2011, 2014. See also Koyré, 1965, 149.

  38. 38.

    Newton to Bentley, 25 Feb 1692/3 (Cohen, 1958, 302–303).

  39. 39.

    On transcendence and immanence, see also Dupré, 1976 (theology), Crosby, 2003 (‘religion of nature’).

  40. 40.

    Quoted in Burtt, 1925, 291.

  41. 41.

    Boyle, 1686, 120.

  42. 42.

    Force, 1990, 84. See also Jacob & Jacob, 1980, 265; Shapin, 1981, 195; Oakley, 1961a, 436.

  43. 43.

    Force, 1990, 84.

  44. 44.

    On the influence of Calvinism on seventeenth-century scientific thought, see Klaaren, 1977.

  45. 45.

    Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion I:5:5 (Calvin, 1960 , 58).

  46. 46.

    See e.g. Kuhn, 1977; compare Longino, 1995, Lichtenstein, 2021a.

  47. 47.

    Einstein, 1949, 26.

  48. 48.

    Einstein, 1949, 29.

  49. 49.

    Einstein, 1949, 26.

  50. 50.

    Letter to Rabbi H. S. Goldstein, 25 April 1929 (The Albert Einstein Archives at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Reel 33, Item 272).

  51. 51.

    On “governing” vs. “descriptive” or “Humean” accounts of laws, see e.g. Loewer, 1996; Beebee, 2000; Schneider, 2007; Bhogal, 2020. For a recent survey of non-Humean views, see Hildebrand, 2020. For an account looking to combine aspects of governing and Humean views, see e.g. Roberts, 2008.

  52. 52.

    Maudlin, 2007, 174.

  53. 53.

    Quoted in Crombie, 1996, 85

  54. 54.

    Compare Suárez’s similar view that “acceptation of law” in nature is “metaphorical, since things which lack reason are not, strictly speaking, susceptible to law, just as they are not capable of obedience” (Suárez, 1944, 22; quoted in Ben-Menahem & Ben-Menahem, 2020, 50). Spinoza also suggests that this use of ‘law’ is only metaphorical—see Spinoza, 2007, 58; Ben-Menahem & Ben-Menahem, 2020, 51.

  55. 55.

    Maudlin, 2007, 15.

  56. 56.

    Maudlin, 2007, 15.

  57. 57.

    ‘Respect’ is ambiguous: for a state to respect laws could just mean that it conforms to laws; but it could also mean that it considers laws, or refrains from interfering with them. The first, weaker sense is innocuous, but fails to distinguish Maudlin’s view from Humean accounts, which he rejects. So he must mean something stronger, related to ‘ontological dependence’ (Maudlin, 2007, 174–178). But this is also ambiguous: Humeans can agree that facts would be different if the laws were very different, e.g.—since facts would have to be different in order for laws that just summarize facts to be very different—so even Humeans can admit a weak sense in which facts ‘depend on’ laws. So Maudlin seems to need a stronger notion of causal influence or acausal grounding, to insist that laws cause or ground events, and not vice versa. But laws are ill-suited to causally affect inanimate objects—despite Maudlin seeming to rely on ‘production’ being quasi-causal, or not being able to run backwards in time—see Lichtenstein, 2021d. Or, if it is grounding that is in play, then causal terms like ‘produce’ are misleading, even as metaphors.

  58. 58.

    The relevant kind of ‘grounding’ is often associated with ‘ontological dependence’, and has to be more than “purely logical” determination, since a ‘descriptive’ Humean about laws could agree that “you can deduce future facts from current facts plus the laws” (Beebee, 2000, 578). For a Humean view on which laws “generate descriptions of particular cases” in something like a purely logical way, see Ward, 2007.

  59. 59.

    Beiser, 2003a, 69.

  60. 60.

    Beiser, 2003a, 70. See also Beiser, 2003b .

  61. 61.

    Beiser, 2002, 11.

  62. 62.

    Cassirer, 1910. For analysis of Cassirer’s view and its intellectual historical context, see Friedman, 2000.

  63. 63.

    Even ‘objective’ idealism can be indirectly anthropocentric, insofar as it values things as possible objects of the kind of rational or intellectual capacity that many take to elevate us above less intelligent animals.

  64. 64.

    Critique of Pure Reason, A648/B676 (Kant, 1998).

  65. 65.

    Critique of Pure Reason A645/B673 (Kant, 1998). Compare Kitcher, 1986, 206.

  66. 66.

    Kitcher, 1986, 215.

  67. 67.

    Kitcher, 1986. Messina (2017) labels Kitcher’s view of Kantian laws, as deriving their necessity directly from systematic unification, a ‘Best System’ interpretation, in contrast to accounts according to which Kant thinks that (i) knowing particular laws to be necessary requires deriving them from underlying synthetic a priori principles, along with empirical data (e.g. Friedman, 1992, 2013); or (ii) empirical laws are necessary rules that obtain by virtue of specific objects’ natures (e.g. Messina, 2017; Watkins, 2005). See also Breitenbach, 2018. I take no real stand on this debate—I am mainly concerned to survey secularized views of the value of laws of nature, and my basic point about Kant is just that he takes the idea of nature as a law-governed unity to be a purely regulative ideal rooted in ‘reason’ rather than inherent in nature as sensibly given to us. Kitcher’s account is the most superficially compatible with the analogy I draw between Kant and Lewis. Watkins-style necessitation accounts draw Kant a bit closer to ‘bottom-up’ dispositional essentialists like Ellis (Messina, 2017, 137; see Sect. 7, below). And Friedman’s view draws Kant a bit closer to rationalists like Descartes. But all parties to this debate can still agree that Kant thinks that particular laws must conform to the pure idea of a system of nature.

  68. 68.

    See Lewis, 1983, 1994. Compare Mill, 1843; Ramsey, 1978.

  69. 69.

    E.g. see Demarest, 2017.

  70. 70.

    Belot, 2010, 430. See also Belot (2022).

  71. 71.

    Lewis, 1986c, 122.

  72. 72.

    Lewis, 1986c, 122.

  73. 73.

    For analysis of Kant’s views on aliens and alternate forms of sensible intuition, see Belot (2022).

  74. 74.

    Compare Kant, 2000, 5:406–408. I take no stand here on which of these options is closer to Kant’s view.

  75. 75.

    Lewis, 1994, 479.

  76. 76.

    This ‘hope’ that nature is ‘kind’ also evokes Duhem’s appeal to an “act of faith” from which we are “powerless to rid [our] reason,” in assuming that the “logical order” into which physical theory arranges experimental laws reflects “real relations among things” (Duhem, 1991, 26–27).

  77. 77.

    Lewis’s appeal to simplicity and strength arguably does less to establish that laws or causal relations have species-wide intersubjective validity than do Kantian tactics like the ‘metaphysical deduction’ of categories from forms of judgment or the ‘transcendental deduction’ meant to show that any object given to us via sense must be categorically determined. That said, standards like simplicity may inform Kantian science aimed at law-governed unity, as scientists judge which theories are most ‘systematic’. Kant and Lewis may hope that reasonable people will agree, but this is a value-laden article of faith.

  78. 78.

    Insole, 2011.

  79. 79.

    Critique of Pure Reason A647/B675 (Kant, 1998).

  80. 80.

    Compare Nancy Cartwright’s view that “the source of order in nature is not laws but powers and mechanisms” (Cartwright, 2016, 56). She denies that there are “universal laws, laws that hold everywhere and everywhen” (ibid.; see also Cartwright, 1983, 1999; Cartwright & Ward, 2016; cf. Sklar, 2003). My ‘dynamism’ is less concerned with universality: causal powers can ground universal laws.

  81. 81.

    Twilight of the Idols “‘Reason’ in Philosophy” §6 (Nietzsche, 1974b, 481).

  82. 82.

    Twilight of the Idols “‘Reason’ in Philosophy” §3 (Nietzsche, 1974b, 484).

  83. 83.

    Compare my suggestions about ‘cognitive dominion’ vis-à-vis ‘ecological twists’ on Nietzsche, below.

  84. 84.

    Feuerbach, 1957, 33.

  85. 85.

    Feuerbach, 1957, 38–39. This influenced Marx’s similar view of religion—compare e.g. Marx, 1978, 53.

  86. 86.

    Feuerbach, 1957, 181.

  87. 87.

    Feuerbach (1957, 155) suggests that Christianity distinctively views “the individual by himself” as “a perfect being.” Its divinity is the perfection of the human species made present under the alienated guise of God’s self-standing individuality, reflecting man’s desire to individually achieve a human mode of being that is in fact realizable only by a social whole (82–83, 150–160, 182–184). This individualism is in turn given its “most unequivocal expression” in the doctrine of God’s incarnation as Christ (154).

  88. 88.

    van Fraassen, 1980, 87–88. Compare Rowbottom, 2010, 247.

  89. 89.

    For recent pragmatically-oriented best system accounts, see Dorst, 2019; Jaag & Loew, 2020—both are framed as fleshing out alternatives to ‘simplicity and strength’, however, not as developing pragmatist interpretations of these standards. See also Cohen & Callender, 2009.

  90. 90.

    Duhem is often grouped with Mach, but this ignores his notion of ‘natural classification’ (see note 76).

  91. 91.

    Mach, 1895, 198.

  92. 92.

    See Zimmerman, 1990, 34; Thomson, 2019, 179. Compare Jünger, 1993. See also Lichtenstein, 2021b.

  93. 93.

    Compare e.g. Heidegger, 1977, 23. See also Young, 2002, Thomson, 2019.

  94. 94.

    The Will to Power §610 (Nietzsche 1968, 328); The Gay Science §373 (Nietzsche 1974a, 335). For discussion, see Lichtenstein, 2021b.

  95. 95.

    Not all interaction is or should be hierarchical, but many asymmetrical relations of influence in nature are unproblematic—and humans exerting control over various parts of nature is perfectly acceptable.

  96. 96.

    Ben-Menahem, 2018, 18.

  97. 97.

    Ben-Menahem, 2018, 19.

  98. 98.

    Ben-Menahem, 2018, 46–47.

  99. 99.

    Cartwright, 2016, 56.

  100. 100.

    Cartwright, 2016, 60. Cartwright qualifies that her focus on contingency is “not motivated by the free will problem,” but rather stems from an aspiration to metaphysical modesty (ibid., 60). Still, conscious ‘motivation’ by ethical views is not the only way that metaphysics can reflect or reinforce ethical views.

  101. 101.

    Certain metaphysicians do argue that (some or all) laws of nature are necessary truths—e.g. see Bird, 2005; Ellis, 2001. Cf. Sidelle, 2002; Vetter, 2012. I address Bird-style dispositional essentialism, below.

  102. 102.

    Compare Bird’s claim that his ‘dispositional essentialism’ “entails that laws are necessary at least in the weak sense that they hold in all possible worlds where the grounding universal exists” (Bird, 2007, 169).

  103. 103.

    See Harrison, 1995, 2002; Henry, 2009.

  104. 104.

    Armstrong, 1983, 85. See also Dretske, 1983; Tooley, 1977, 1987.

  105. 105.

    Armstrong, 1993, 422.

  106. 106.

    Views of this sort may even have a Humean dimension. E.g. Demarest (2017) defends a “Potency-Best System Account of Laws,” pairing a Humean view of laws (as systematizing, not governing, the world) with an anti-Humean fundamental ontology (including basic ‘potencies’ in nature). Compare Bird, 2007. Demarest (2017, 44) takes Drestke, Tooley, and Armstrong all to claim that laws govern nature. Note, then, that when I say laws describe causes without governing, I do not ascribe this view to Armstrong.

  107. 107.

    Thanks to Yemima Ben-Menahem for this suggestion.

  108. 108.

    Compare Lewis’s description of Humean Supervenience as the view that “all there is to the world is a vast mosaic of local matters of particular fact, just one little thing and then another” (Lewis, 1986d, ix).

  109. 109.

    A similar critique applies to Kantians vis-à-vis (what they see as) inscrutable ‘things in themselves’.

  110. 110.

    Compare Kant, 2000, 5: 251–260.

  111. 111.

    For elaboration of this ideal of objectivity in application to art, see Lichtenstein, 2021c. On how Kant’s aesthetics encodes a rationalistic view of humanity, and a distinct approach, see also Lichtenstein, 2019.

  112. 112.

    Aristotle, De Caelo 310b. See also Machamer, 1978.

  113. 113.

    Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics 1224a15.

  114. 114.

    Compare T. C. Hammond’s claim that natural processes are “no longer conceived as the arbitrary determinations of creative power,” but rather as “the necessary expressions of an inner reality developing itself in and by these very processes”—which he links to the idea of an immanent God (Hammond, 1911, 198). To others, ‘arbitrary determinations of creative power’ presumably sounds apt.

  115. 115.

    Compare Jacob & Jacob, 1980, 255–256; Christianson, 1984, 307 (cf. Force, 1990, 91–92).

  116. 116.

    Nietzsche, 2002, 30; see also Ben-Menahem & Ben-Menahem, 2020, 53. Compare Nietzsche, 1996, 216.

  117. 117.

    Stace, 1952, 129–130. To be clear, Stace is here discussing religious mysticism and not laws of nature.


  • Armstrong, D. M. (1983). What is a law of nature? Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Armstrong, D. M. (1993). The identification problem and the inference problem. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 53, 421–422.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Beebee, H. (2000). The non-governing conception of Laws of nature. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 61(3), 571–594.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Beiser, F. C. (2002). German idealism: The struggle against subjectivism, 1781–1801. Harvard University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Beiser, F. C. (2003a). The romantic imperative: The concept of early German romanticism. Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beiser, F. C. (2003b). Hegel and Naturphilosophie. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A, 34, 135–147.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Belot, G. (2010). Transcendental idealism among the Jersey metaphysicians. Philosophical Studies, 150, 429–438.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Belot, G. (2022). Ratbag idealism. In Y. Ben-Menahem (Ed.), Rethinking the concept of Laws of nature. Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ben-Menahem, Y. (2018). Causation in science. Princeton University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ben-Menahem, H., & Ben-Menahem, Y. (2020). The rule of law: Natural, human, and divine. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 81, 46–54.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bhogal, H. (2020). Humeanism about laws of nature. Philosophy Compass, 15(8), e12696.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bird, A. (2005). The Dispositionalist conception of laws. Foundations of Science, 10, 353–370.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bird, A. (2007). Nature’s metaphysics: Laws and properties. Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Boyle, R. (1686). A free enquiry into the vulgarly Receiv’d notion of nature; made in an essay, Address’d to a Friend. Printed by H. Clark for John Taylor. (Original work published 1686).

    Google Scholar 

  • Breitenbach, A. (2018). Laws and ideal unity. In W. Ott & L. Patton (Eds.), Laws of nature (pp. 108–121). Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Burtt, E. A. (1925). The metaphysical foundations of modern science. Kegan Paul/Trench/Trubner & Co.

    Google Scholar 

  • Calvin, J. (1960). Institutes of the Christian religion (Vol. 1) (J. T. McNeill, Ed., and F. L. Battles, Trans.). Westminster John Knox Press. (Original work published 1536).

    Google Scholar 

  • Carroll, J. (1994). Laws of nature. Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Cartwright, N. (1983). How the Laws of physics lie. Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Cartwright, N. (1999). The dappled world: A study of the boundaries of science. Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Cartwright, N. (2016). Contingency and the order of nature. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C, 58, 56–63.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Cartwright, N., & Ward, K. (Eds.). (2016). Rethinking order: After the Laws of nature. Bloomsbury.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cassirer, E. (1910). Substanzbegriff und Funktionsbegriff: Untersuchungen über die Grundfragen der Erkenntniskritik. Bruno Cassirer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Christianson, G. E. (1984). In the presence of the creator: Isaac Newton and his times. The Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, I. B. (Ed.). (1958). Isaac Newton’s papers and letters on natural philosophy and related documents. Harvard University Press..

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, J., & Callender, C. (2009). A better best system account of lawhood. Philosophical Studies, 145(1), 1–34.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Crombie, A. C. (1996). Infinite power and the Laws of nature: A medieval speculation. In Science art, and nature in medieval and modern thought (pp. 67–88). Hambledon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crosby, D. A. (2003). Transcendence and immanence in a religion of nature. American Journal of Theology & Philosophy, 24(3), 245–259.

    Google Scholar 

  • Daston, L., & Stolleis, M. (Eds.). (2008). Natural law and laws of nature in early modern Europe: Jurisprudence, theology, moral and natural philosophy. Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Davis, E. B. (1991). God, man, and nature: The problem of creation in Cartesian thought. Scottish Journal of Theology, 44, 325–348.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Demarest, H. (2017). Powerful properties, powerless Laws. In J. D. Jacobs (Ed.), Causal powers (pp. 38–53). Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Descartes, R. (1982). Principles of philosophy (V. R. Miller, & R. P. Miller, Trans.). Kluwer. (Original work published 1644).

    Google Scholar 

  • Descartes, R. (1991). The philosophical writings of descartes, volume III: The correspondence (J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch, & A. Kenny, Trans.). Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dorst, C. (2019). Towards a best predictive system account of Laws of nature. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 70(3), 877–900.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Dretske, F. I. (1983). Laws of nature. Philosophy of Science, 44(2), 248–268.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Duhem, P. (1991). The aim and structure of physical theory (2nd ed.) (P. P. Wiener, Trans.). Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1914).

    Google Scholar 

  • Dupré, L. (1976). Transcendence and immanence as theological categories. Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America, 31, 1–10.

    Google Scholar 

  • Einstein, A. (1949). The world as i see it (A. Harris, Trans.). Watts & Co. (Original worked published 1934).

    Google Scholar 

  • Ellis, B. (2001). Scientific Essentialism. Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Feuerbach, L. (1957). The essence of Christianity (G. Eliot, Trans.). Harper. (Original work published 1841).

    Google Scholar 

  • Force, J. E. (1990). Newton’s god of dominion: The Unity of Newton’s theological, scientific, and political thought. In J. E. Force & R. H. Popkin (Eds.), Essays on the context, nature, and influence of Isaac Newton’s theology (pp. 75–102). Kluwer.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Foster, M. B. (1934). The Christian doctrine of creation and the rise of modern natural science. Mind, 43(172), 446–468.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Foster, M. B. (1935). Christian theology and modern science of nature (I.). Mind, 44(176), 439–466.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Foster, M. B. (1936). Christian theology and modern science of nature (II.). Mind, 45(177), 1–27.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Friedman, M. (1992). Causal Laws and the foundations of natural science. In P. Guyer (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to Kant (pp. 161–199). Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Friedman, M. (2000). A parting of the ways: Carnap, Cassirer, and Heidegger. Open Court.

    Google Scholar 

  • Friedman, M. (2013). Kant’s construction of nature: A Reading of the metaphysical foundations of natural science. Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Garber, D. (2013). God, Laws, and the order of nature: Descartes and Leibniz, Hobbes, and Spinoza. In E. Watkins (Ed.), The divine order, the human order, and the order of nature (pp. 45–66). Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Giere, R. N. (1999). Science without Laws. The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guthrie, W. K. C. (1975). A history of Greek philosophy, v. IV: Plato: The man and his dialogues, early period. Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hammond, T. C. (1911). Immanence and transcendence. The Irish Church Quarterly, 4, 198–215.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, P. (1995). Newtonian science, miracles, and the laws of nature. Journal of the History of Ideas, 56, 531–553.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, P. (2002). Voluntarism and early modern science. History of Science, 40, 63–89.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, P. (2004). Was Newton a voluntarist? In J. E. Force & S. Hutton (Eds.), Newton and Newtonianism: New studies, international archives of the history of ideas 188 (pp. 39–63). Kluwer.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, P. (2009). Voluntarism and the origins of modern science: A reply to John Henry. History of Science, 47(2), 223–231.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, P. (2013). Laws of nature in seventeenth-century England: From Cambridge Platonism to Newtonianism. In E. Watkins (Ed.), The divine order, the human order, and the order of nature: Historical perspectives (pp. 127–148). Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology and other essays (W. Lovitt, Trans.). Garland.

    Google Scholar 

  • Henry, J. (1994). ‘Pray do not ascribe that notion to me’: God and Newton’s gravity. In J. E. Force & R. H. Popkins (Eds.), The books of nature and scripture: Recent essays on natural philosophy, theology and biblical criticism in the Netherlands of Spinoza’s time and the British Isles of Newton’s time (pp. 123–147). Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Henry, J. (2004). Metaphysics and the origins of modern science: Descartes and the importance of Laws of nature. Early Science and Medicine, 9(2), 73–114.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Henry, J. (2009). Voluntarist theology at the origins of modern science: A response to Peter Harrison. History of Science, 47(1), 79–113.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Henry, J. (2011). Gravity and De gravitatione: The development of Newton’s ideas on action at a distance. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 42, 11–27.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Henry, J. (2014). Newton and action at a distance between bodies—A response to Andrew Janiak’s ‘Three Concepts of Causation in Newton. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 47, 91–97.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hildebrand, T. (2020). Non-Humean theories of natural necessity. Philosophy Compass, 15, e12662.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Insole, C. (2011). Kant’s transcendental idealism and Newton’s divine sensorium. Journal of the History of Ideas, 72(3), 413–436.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Jaag, S., & Loew, C. (2020). Making best systems best for us. Synthese, 197, 2525–2550.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Jacob, J. R., & Jacob, M. C. (1980). The Anglican origins of modern science: The metaphysical foundations of the Whig constitution. Isis, 71(2), 251–267.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Janiak, A. (2008). Newton as philosopher. Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Janiak, A. (2013). Three concepts of causation in Newton. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 44, 396–407.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Jünger, E. (1993). Total mobilization. In R. Wolin (Ed.), The Heidegger controversy: A critical reader (pp. 119–139). The MIT Press. (Original work published 1930).

    Google Scholar 

  • Kant, I. (1998). The critique of pure reason (P. Guyer, & A. W. Wood, Trans.). Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 1781 (1st ed.), 1787 (2nd ed.))

    Google Scholar 

  • Kant, I. (2000). Critique of the power of judgment (P. Guyer, & E. Matthews, Trans.). Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 1790).

    Google Scholar 

  • Kedar, Y., & Hon, G. (2017). ‘Natures’ and ‘Laws’: The making of the concept of law of nature—Robert Grosseteste (c. 1168–1253) and Roger Bacon (1214/1220–1292). Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, 61, 21–31.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Kitcher, P. (1986). Projecting the order of nature. In R. E. Butts (Ed.), Kant’s philosophy of physical science (pp. 201–235). Springer.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Klaaren, E. M. (1977). Religious origins of modern science: Belief in creation in seventeenth-century thought. Eerdmans.

    Google Scholar 

  • Koyré, A. (1965). Newtonian Studies. Chapman & Hall.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Kuhn, T. S. (1977). Objectivity, value judgment, and theory choice. In The essential tension: Selected studies in scientific tradition and change (pp. 320–339). The University of Chicago Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lange, M. (2000). Natural Laws in scientific practice. Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lange, M. (2009). Laws and Lawmakers. Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, D. (1983). New work for a theory of universals. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 61, 343–377.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, D. (1986a). Causation. In Philosophical papers (Vol. 2, pp. 159–213). Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, D. (1986b). Counterfactual dependence and time’s arrow. In Philosophical papers (Vol. 2, pp. 32–66). Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, D. (1986c). A subjectivist’s guide to objective chance. In Philosophical papers (Vol. 2, pp. 83–132). Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, D. (1986d). Introduction. In Philosophical papers (Vol. 2, pp. ix–xvii). Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lewis, D. (1994). Humean Supervenience Debugged. Mind, 103, 473–490.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lichtenstein, E. I. (2019). Sensory Force, sublime impact, and beautiful form. British Journal of Aesthetics, 59(4), 449–464.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lichtenstein, E. I. (2021a). (Mis)Understanding scientific disagreement: Success versus pursuit-worthiness in theory choice. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 85, 166–175.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lichtenstein, E. I. (2021b). Classical form or modern scientific rationalization? Nietzsche on the drive to ordered thought as apollonian power and Socratic pathology. Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 52(1), 105–134.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lichtenstein, E. I. (2021c). Artistic objectivity: From Ruskin’s pathetic fallacy to creative receptivity. British Journal of Aesthetics, 61(4), 505–526.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lichtenstein, E. I. (2021d). How anti-humeans can embrace a thermodynamic reduction of Time’s causal arrow. Philosophy of Science, 88(5), 1161–1171.

    Google Scholar 

  • Loewer, B. (1996). Humean supervenience. Philosophical Topics, 24, 101–127.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Longino, H. E. (1995). Gender, politics, and the theoretical virtues. Synthese, 104(3), 383–397.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lovejoy, A. O. (1936). The great chain of being: A study of the history of an idea. Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mach, E. (1895). On the economical nature of physical inquiry (T. J. McCormack, Trans.). In Popular scientific lectures (pp. 186–213). Open court.

    Google Scholar 

  • Machamer, P. K. (1978). Aristotle on natural place and natural motion. Isis, 69(3), 377–387.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Malet, A. (1997). Isaac Barrow on the Mathematization of nature: Theological voluntarism and the rise of geometrical optics. Journal of the History of Ideas, 58(2), 265–287.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Marx, K. (1978). Contribution to the critique of Hegel’s philosophy of right: Introduction. In R. C. Tucker (Ed.), The Marx-Engels reader (2nd ed., pp. 53–65). Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maudlin, T. (2007). The metaphysics within physics. Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Messina, J. (2017). Kant’s necessitation account of Laws and the nature of natures. In A. Breitenbach & M. Massimi (Eds.), Kant and the Laws of nature (pp. 131–149). Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Mill, J. S. (1843). A system of logic, rationcinative and inductive. Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Needham, J. (1951a). Human Laws and Laws of nature in China and the West (I). Journal of the History of Ideas, 12(1), 3–30.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Needham, J. (1951b). Human Laws and Laws of nature in China and the West (II): Chinese civilization and the Laws of nature. Journal of the History of Ideas, 12(2), 194–230.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Newton, I. (1730). Opticks: Or, a treatise of the reflections, refractions, inflections, and Colours of light (4th ed.). William Innys.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nietzsche, F. (1968). The will to power (W. Kaufmann, & R. J. Hollingdale, Trans.). Vintage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nietzsche, F. (1974a). The gay science: With a prelude in rhymes and an appendix in songs (W. Kaufmann, Trans.). Vintage. (Original work published 1882).

    Google Scholar 

  • Nietzsche, F. (1974b). Twilight of the idols. In W. Kaufmann (Ed. & Trans.). The portable Nietzsche (pp. 463–564). Penguin. (Original work published 1889).

    Google Scholar 

  • Nietzsche, F. (1996). Human, all too human (R. J. Hollingdale, Trans.). Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 1878).

    Google Scholar 

  • Nietzsche, F. (2002). Beyond good and evil (R. Horstmann, & J. Norman, Eds., and J. Norman, Trans.). Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 1886).

    Google Scholar 

  • Oakley, F. (1961a). Christian theology and the Newtonian science: The rise of the concept of the Laws of nature. Church History, 30(4), 433–457.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Oakley, F. (1961b). Medieval theories of natural law: William of Ockham and the significance of the voluntarist tradition. American Journal of Jurisprudence, 6, 65–83.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Osler, M. J. (1991). Fortune, fate, and divination: Gassendi’s voluntarist theology and the baptism of epicureanism. In M. J. Osler (Ed.), Atoms, pneuma, and tranquillity (pp. 155–174). Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Osler, M. J. (1994). Divine will and the mechanical philosophy: Gassendi and Descartes on contingency and necessity in the created world. Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ramsey, F. (1978). Foundations. Routledge and Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roberts, J. T. (2008). The law-governed universe. Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Rowbottom, D. P. (2010). What scientific progress is not: Against Bird’s epistemic view. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 24(3), 241–255.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ruby, J. E. (1986). The origins of scientific ‘law’. Journal of the History of Ideas, 47, 341–359.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Schneider, S. (2007). What is the significance of the intuition that Laws of nature govern? Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 85, 307–324.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Shapin, S. (1981). Of gods and kings: Natural philosophy and politics in the Leibniz-Clarke disputes. Isis, 72(2), 187–215.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Sidelle, A. (2002). On the metaphysical contingency of laws of nature. In T. S. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Conceivability and possibility (pp. 309–336). Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sklar, L. (2003). Dappled theories in a uniform world. Philosophy of Science, 70(2), 424–441.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Snobelen, S. D. (2001). ‘God of Gods, and Lord of lords’: The theology of Isaac Newton’s general scholium to the principia. Osiris, 16, 169–208.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Spinoza, B. (2007). Theological-political treatise (J. Israel, Ed., & M. Silverthorne, and J. Israel, Trans.). Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 1670).

    Google Scholar 

  • Stace, W. T. (1952). Time and eternity: An essay in the philosophy of religion. Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Suárez, F. (1944). Selections from three works (G. L. Williams, A. Brown, & J. Waldron, Trans.). Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thomson, I. (2019). Technology, ontotheology, education. In A. J. Wendland, C. Merwin, & C. Hadjioannou (Eds.), Heidegger on technology (pp. 174–193). Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tooley, M. (1977). The Laws of nature. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 7, 667–698.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Tooley, M. (1987). Causation: A realist approach. Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • van Fraassen, B. C. (1980). The scientific image. Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Vetter, B. (2012). Dispositional essentialism and the Laws of nature. In A. Bird, B. Ellis, & H. Sankey (Eds.), Properties, powers and structures: Issues in the metaphysics of realism (pp. 201–215). Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vlastos, G. (1965). Degrees of reality in Plato. In R. Bambrough (Ed.), New essays on Plato and Aristotle (pp. 1–20). Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vlastos, G. (1966). A metaphysical paradox. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 39, 5–19.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ward, B. (2007). Laws, explanation, governing, and generation. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 85(4), 537–552.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, E. (2005). Kant and the metaphysics of causality. Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Westfall, R. S. (1986). The rise of science and the decline of orthodox Christianity: A study of Descartes, Kepler, and Newton. In D. C. Lindberg & R. L. Numbers (Eds.), God and nature (pp. 218–237). University of California Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Young, J. (2002). Heidegger’s Later Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zimmerman, M. E. (1990). Heidegger’s confrontation with modernity: Technology, politics, and art. Indiana University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eli I. Lichtenstein .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Lichtenstein, E.I. (2022). Revaluing Laws of Nature in Secularized Science. In: Ben-Menahem, Y. (eds) Rethinking the Concept of Law of Nature . Jerusalem Studies in Philosophy and History of Science. Springer, Cham.

Download citation