Amazon Book Description
- This is a study of a crucial and controversial topic in metaphysics and the philosophy of science: the status of the laws of nature. D. M. Armstrong works out clearly and in comprehensive detail a largely original view that laws are relations between properties or universals1. The theory is continuous with the views on universals2 and more generally with the scientific realism that Professor Armstrong has advanced in earlier publications.
- He begins here by mounting an attack on the orthodox and sceptical view deriving from Hume that laws assert no more than a regularity of coincidence between instances of properties. In doing so he presents what may become the definitive statement of the case against this position.
- Professor Armstrong then goes on to establish his own theory in a systematic manner defending it against the most likely objections, and extending both it and the related theory of universals3 to cover functional and statistical laws.
- This treatment of the subject is refreshingly concise and vivid: it will both stimulate vigorous professional debate and make an excellent student text.
Acknowledgements – x
- PART I – A critique of the Regularity theory – 1
- Introductory – 3
- Critique of the Regularity theory (1): The problem of accidental uniformities – 11
- Critique of the Regularity theory (2) – 24
- Critique of the Regularity theory (3) – 39
- Can the Regularity theory be sophisticated? – 60
- PART II – Laws of nature as relations between universals4 – 75
- Laws of nature as relations between universals5 – 77
- Functional laws – 111
- Uninstantiated laws – 117
- Probabilistic laws – 128
- Further considerations concerning the form of laws – 137
- Are the laws of nature necessary or contingent? – 158
Conclusions – 172
Works cited – 174
Index – 177
In-Page Footnotes ("Armstrong (David) - What is a Law of Nature?")
Footnote 2: See "Armstrong (David) - Universals and Scientific Realism (Vol. 1: Nominalism and Realism)" & "Armstrong (David) - Universals and Scientific Realism (Vol. 2: A Theory of Universals)".
"Dretske (Fred) - Review of Armstrong's 'What is a Law of Nature'"
Source: British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 36.1, March 1985, pp. 79-81
COMMENT: Review of "Armstrong (David) - What is a Law of Nature?".
"Wilson (Mark) - Review of David Armstrong's 'What is a Law of Nature?'"
Source: Philosophical Review 96.3, July 1987, pp. 435-441
COMMENT: Review of "Armstrong (David) - What is a Law of Nature?".
"Armstrong (David) - What is a Law of Nature? Introductory"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 1
- The importance of our topic – 3
- A possible difficulty in investigating our topic – 5
- Assumptions – 7
- The Regularity theory – 9
"Armstrong (David) - Critique of the Regularity theory (1): The problem of accidental uniformities"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 2
- The Naive Regularity theory of law – 11
- Classification of criticisms of the Regularity theory – 12
- Single-case uniformities – 13
- How to pass from single-case uniformities to multi-case uniformities – 15
- How to pass from local uniformities to Humean uniformities – 17
- Unrealized physical possibilities – 17
- Humean uniformities with non-existent subjects – 19
"Armstrong (David) - Critique of the Regularity theory (2)"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 3
- Spatio-temporally limited laws – 24
- Local uniformities as laws – 26
- Infinitely qualified laws – 27
- Probabilistic laws – 29
- Probabilistic laws: the retreat to Positivism – 35
- Functional laws – 37
"Armstrong (David) - Critique of the Regularity theory (3)"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 4
- Lack of inner connection – 39
- Laws of nature as Principles of Explanation – 40
- The Paradoxes of Confirmation – 41
- The problem of counterfactuals – 46
- The Problem of Induction – 52
"Armstrong (David) - Can the Regularity theory be sophisticated?"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 5
- Preliminary – 60
- Epistemic restriction upon uniformities – 61
- The Resiliency solution – 64
- Systematic restrictions upon uniformities – 66
"Armstrong (David) - Laws of nature as relations between universals"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 6
- The need for universals1 – 77
- The theory of universals2 – 81
- A first formulation – 85
- Laws as universals3 – 88
- Causation4 as a relation between particulars – 93
- Necessitation, universals5 and laws – 96
- Advantages and some disadvantages of conceiving of laws of nature as relations between universals6 – 99
- Braithwaite's and Popper's argument – 107
"Armstrong (David) - Functional laws"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 7
"Armstrong (David) - Uninstantiated laws"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 8
- Tooley's cases – 117
- Tooley's conclusions – 118
- Tooley's cases solved by the introduction of powers? – 121
- A sceptical treatment of Tooley's cases – 123
- Uninstantiated laws with nomically impossible antecedents – 126
"Armstrong (David) - Probabilistic laws"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 9
- The form of probabilistic laws – 128
- Probabilistic laws as probabilities of necessitation – 131
- Other types of probabilistic laws – 135
"Armstrong (David) - Further considerations concerning the form of laws"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 10
- Scientific identification – 137
- Laws with universal scope – 140
- Are there any Exclusion laws? – 143
- Iron laws and Oaken laws – 147
- Disjunctive laws – 150
- Do laws always link the properties of the same object? – 153
- Formal properties of Necessitation – 155
"Armstrong (David) - Are the laws of nature necessary or contingent?"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature? Chapter 11
- Arguments for the necessity of laws – 159
- Strong Necessity – 163
- Weak Necessity – 166
- Uninstantiated laws – 169
"Armstrong (David) - What is a Law of Nature? Conclusions"
Source: Armstrong - What is a Law of Nature?
- I will try to sum up the main positive theses argued for in this essay.
- Laws of nature are dyadic relations of necessitation (or probabilification) holding between universals1. They are (higher-order) states of affairs, states of affairs which are simultaneously universals2. The instantiations of these universals3 are the positive instances falling under the law. It is an intelligible notion that a particular first-order state of affairs should necessitate a further first-order state of affairs, yet not in virtue of the universals4 involved in these states of affairs. But in a law of nature this same relation of necessitation links sorts of states of affairs, that is, universals5. Such necessitations 'might have been other than they are', that is, they are contingent. Where one sort of state of affairs necessitates another, then it is entailed, in the absence of further interfering factors (which are always at least logically possible), that the first sort of state of affairs is constantly conjoined with the second sort of state of affairs.
- All genuine laws are instantiated laws. Statements of uninstantiated law are to be construed as counterfactuals about what laws would hold if certain conditions were realized. Such statements depend for their truth upon the existence of higher-order laws. Given the higher-order law and the contrary-to-fact condition, then the uninstantiated law may be deduced.
- Functional laws are higher-order laws governing those lower-order laws which can be deduced from a functional law after substituting particular values for independent variables. Higher-order laws are relations between higher-order universals6. These higher-order universals7 are instantiated by the lower-order universals8 involved in the lower-order laws. (Mass may be a higher-order universal, instantiated by the determinate mass-values such as one kilogram exact.)
- Irreducibly probabilistic laws are also relations between universals9. These relations give (are constituted by) a certain objective probability that individual instantiations of the antecedent universal will necessitate instantiation of the consequent universal. They give a probability of a necessitation in the particular case. Like all laws, they must have (positive) instantiations at some time. Deterministic laws are limiting cases of probabilistic laws (probability 1).
- It is always logically possible that the antecedent universal of a law of nature should be instantiated, yet that, because of the presence of interfering factors, the consequent universal not be instantiated. (The absence of interfering factors is not a factor.) If this possibility is no more than a logical possibility, then the law may be said to be iron. (A probabilistic law can be an iron law.) If interference sometimes actually occurs, then the law may be said to be oaken.
- There are strong, if not conclusive, reasons to reject negative and disjunctive universals10. As a result, there is reason to reject exclusion laws, and laws with disjunctive consequents. However, such laws may be freely admitted as derived laws. Derived laws are no more than the logical consequences of the underived or genuine laws. They involve no further universals11 or relations between universals12.
- It appears that all laws link a state of affairs where a particular has a property with a state of affairs where that same particular has a further property. However, the properties involved may be relational properties. The relations involved in these relational properties will regularly involve temporal relations.
- The necessitation relation, unlike logical necessitation, is not reflexive, is not transitive, cannot be contraposed, and is not symmetrical.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
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