Laws and Lawmakers: Science, Metaphysics, and the Laws of Nature

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Overview

Laws of nature have long puzzled philosophers. What distinguishes laws from facts about the world that do not rise to the level of laws? How can laws be contingent and nevertheless necessary? In this brief, accessible study, Lange offers provocative and original answers to these questions. He argues that laws are distinguished by their necessity, which is grounded in primitive subjunctive facts (expressed by counterfactual conditionals). While recognizing that natural necessity is distinct from logical, metaphysical, and mathematical necessity, Lange explains how natural necessity constitutes a species of the same genus as those other varieties of necessity.

Along the way, Lange discusses the relation between laws and objective chances, as well as such unjustly neglected topics as the completeness of the laws of physics and whether the laws of nature can change. Lange's elegant, engagingly written book is non-technical and suitable for undergraduate philosophers (and undergraduate scientists interested in the logical foundations of science). It is "must reading" for metaphysicians and philosophers of science working on laws, chance, counterfactuals, modality, or the philosophy of physics.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book presents a compact yet thorough exposition and defense of an important position about the metaphysics of natural laws. The level of philosophical argumentation is consistently high, and while the dialectic gets quite intricate at times, Language more than compensates by writing in a lucid and thoroughly engaging manner. I think it's a must read, for anyone interested in the nature of natural laws." —Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195328141
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/9/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Marc Lange is Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Table of Contents

Preface
Chapter 1: Laws Form Counterfactually Stable Sets
1. Welcome
2. Their necessity sets the laws apart
3. The laws's persistence under counterfactuals
4. Nomic preservation
5. Beyond nomic preservation
6. A host of related problems: triviality, circularity, arbitrariness
7. Sub-nomic stability
8. No nonmaximal set containing accidents possesses sub-nomic stability
9. How two sub-nomically stable sets must be related: multiple strata of natural laws
10. Why the laws would still have been laws
11. Conclusion: laws form stable sets
Chapter 2: Natural Necessity
1. Our goal in this chapter
2. The Euthyphro question
3. David Lewis's "Best-System Account"
4. Lewis's account and the laws's supervenience
5. The Euthyphro question returns
6. Are all relative necessities created equal?
7. The modality principle
8. A proposal for distinguishing genuine from merely relative modalities
9. Borrowing a strategy from Chapter 1
10. Necessity as maximal invariance
11. The laws form a system
12. Scientific essentialism squashes the pyramid
13. Why there is a natural ordering of the genuine modalities
14. Conclusion: stability, as maximal invariance, involves necessity
Chapter 4: A World of Subjunctives
1. What if the lawmakers were subjunctive facts?
2. The lawmakers's regress
3. Stability
4. Avoiding adhocery
5. nstantaneous rates of change and the causal explanation problem
6. Et in Arcadia ego
7. The rule of law
8. Why the laws must be complete
9. Envoi: Am I cheating?

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