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Nomological Necessity

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian Boge (University of Cologne, University of Cologne)
About this topic
Summary Some statements are not only true but necessarily true. The fact they state can not possibly be otherwise. Consider the necessary "My sister is a woman" versus the non-necessary (i.e., accidental or contingent) "I have a brother". There are, however, different kinds of necessity: a logical necessity, like "It is raining or it is not raining", has its source in the rules of logic; a conceptual necessity, like "Bachelors are unmarried men", is true in virtue of the meanings of the words of the statement; a metaphysical necessity, like "Water is H2O", is said to be necessarily true because it is the essence of water to be H2O. Nomological necessity, finally, is grounded in or grounds the laws of nature: "Increased heat at constant volume necessitates (or causes) higher pressure".  Some philosophers first give a theory of what laws of nature are and then can say on that basis that events happen with nomological necessity when they happen because of the laws. Other philosophers take nomological necessity to be basic and define law statements in terms of nomologically necessary relations in nature.
Key works The two most famous opposite views are those of Lewis for whom laws come first (Lewis 1973, especially pp 73 onwards) and Armstrong, Dretske, Tooley, for whom nomological necessity is more basic Armstrong 1983Dretske 1977Tooley 1997.
Introductions Carroll 2008
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  1. Erik Andrew Anderson (1997). The Modal Status of Natural Laws. Dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder
    According to a popular realist conception, the laws of nature not only describe, but indeed govern what happens in the empirical world. Thus, according to this view, laws are "modally stronger" than mere contingent, empirical regularities. At the same time, this conception has it that the laws of nature could have been other than they actually are. Thus, according to this view, laws are "modally weaker" than logical necessities. As such, this view of laws, which I call the Weak Thesis, (...)
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  2. D. M. Armstrong (2010). Sketch for a Systematic Metaphysics. Oxford University Press.
    David Armstrong sets out his metaphysical system in a set of concise and lively chapters each dealing with one aspect of the world.
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  3. D. M. Armstrong (1999). Comment on Ellis. In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer. 35--38.
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  4. D. M. Armstrong (1999). Comment on Smart. In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer. 171--172.
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  5. D. M. Armstrong (1996). Comments on Lierse. In P. Riggs (ed.), Natural Kinds, Laws of Nature and Scientific Methodology. Kluwer Academic Publishers. 227--228.
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  6. D. M. Armstrong (1993). A World of States of Affairs. Philosophical Perspectives 7 (3):429-440.
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  7. D. M. Armstrong (1983). What is a Law of Nature? Cambridge University Press.
    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 universals. The theory is continuous with the views on universals 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 (...)
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  8. D. M. Armstrong (1982). Laws of Nature as Relations Between Universals and as Universals. Philosophical Topics 13 (1):7-24.
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  9. D. M. Armstrong (1978). Naturalism, Materialism and First Philosophy. Philosophia 8 (2-3):261-276.
    First, The doctrine of naturalism, That reality is spatio-Temporal, Is defended. Second, The doctrine of materialism or physicalism, That this spatio-Temporal reality involves nothing but the entities of physics working according to the principles of physics, Is defended. Third, It is argued that these doctrines do not constitute a "first philosophy." a satisfactory first philosophy should recognize universals, In the form of instantiated properties and relations. Laws of nature are constituted by relations between universals. What universals there are, And what (...)
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  10. D. M. Armstrong, John Bacon, Keith Campbell & Lloyd Reinhardt (eds.) (1993). Ontology, Causality, and Mind: Essays in Honor of D.M. Armstrong. Cambridge University Press.
  11. David M. Armstrong (1999). Reply to Ellis. In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer. 43--48.
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  12. David M. Armstrong (1999). The Open Door: Counterfactual Versus Singularist Theories of Causation. In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer. 175--185.
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  13. Review author[S.]: D. M. Armstrong (1993). The Identification Problem and the Inference Problem. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (2):421-422.
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  14. Yuri Balashov (2002). What is a Law of Nature? The Broken-Symmetry Story. Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (4):459-473.
    I argue that the contemporary interplay of cosmology and particle physics in their joint effort to understand the processes at work during the first moments of the big bang has important implications for understanding the nature of lawhood. I focus on the phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry breaking responsible for generating the masses of certain particles. This phenomenon presents problems for the currently fashionable Dretske-Tooley-Armstrong theory and strongly favors a rival nomic ontology of causal powers.
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  15. Yuri V. Balashov (1998). Laws of Nature and the Universe: Philosophical Implications of Modern Cosmology. Dissertation, University of Notre Dame
    Are the laws of nature real? Do they belong to the world or merely reflect the way we speak about it? If they are real, what sort of entity are they? This study contributes to the ongoing discussion of these questions by emphasizing the importance of a cosmological perspective on them. I argue that the evidence coming from modern evolutionary cosmology presents difficulties for certain currently fashionable philosophical accounts of laws, in particular, for the Dretske-Tooley-Armstrong theory. I defend, in light (...)
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  16. James O. Bennett (1975). Natural and Nomological Necessity. New Scholasticism 49 (4):393-409.
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  17. John Bigelow, Brian Ellis & Caroline Lierse (1992). The World as One of a Kind: Natural Necessity and Laws of Nature. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43 (3):371-388.
  18. Alexander Bird (2005). The Ultimate Argument Against Armstrong's Contingent Necessitation View of Laws. Analysis 65 (286):147-55.
    I show that Armstrong’s view of laws as second-order contingent relations of ‘necessitation’ among categorical properties faces a dilemma. The necessitation relation confers a relation of extensional inclusion (‘constant conjunction’) on its relata. It does so either necessarily or contingently. If necessarily, it is not a categorical relation (in the relevant sense). If contingently, then an explanation is required of how it confers extensional inclusion. That explanation will need to appeal to a third-order relation between necessitation and extensional inclusion. The (...)
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  19. Emile Boutroux & Fred Rothwell (1916). The Contingency of the Laws of Nature. Open Court.
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  20. Étienne Émile M. Boutroux & Fred Rothwell (1916). The Contingency of the Laws of Nature, Authorized Tr. By F. Rothwell.
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  21. Janet Broughton (1987). Necessity and Physical Laws in Descartes's Philosophy. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 68 (3/4):205.
    I argue that although in his earlier work descartes thought of the laws of motion as "eternal truths," he later came to think of them as truths whose necessity is of a different type.
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  22. B. Carr (1978). HARRÉ, R. And MADDEN, E. H. "Causal Powers: A Theory of Natural Necessity". [REVIEW] Mind 87:305.
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  23. John W. Carroll (1987). Ontology and the Laws of Nature. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 65 (3):261 – 276.
    An argument for realism (i.E., The ontological thesis that there exist universals) has emerged in the writings of david armstrong, Fred dretske, And michael tooley. These authors have persuasively argued against traditional reductive accounts of laws and nature. The failure of traditional reductive accounts leads all three authors to opt for a non-Traditional reductive account of laws which requires the existence of universals. In other words, These authors have opted for accounts of laws which (together with the fact that there (...)
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  24. John William Carroll (1986). The Nature of Physical Laws. Dissertation, The University of Arizona
    A program for advancing a new philosophical account of physical laws is presented. The program is non-reductive in that it maintains that any correct account of physical laws must recognize law sentences as irreducible--that is, as not admitting of an analysis which does not invoke any unanalyzed nomic facts . The program has the unusual attraction of being consistent with Nominalism and epistemically in the spirit of Empiricism. ;Initially motivating my program is a two-stage attack in chapters two and three (...)
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  25. Armstrong David (1996). Comments on Lierse. In P. Riggs (ed.), Natural Kinds, Laws of Nature and Scientific Methodology. Kluwer Academic Publishers. 227.
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  26. TIm de Mey & Markku Keinänen (eds.) (2008). Problems From Armstrong. Acta Philosophica Fennica 84.
    For almost fifty years, David Armstrong has made major contributions in analytic philosophy. The aim of this volume is to collect papers that situate, discuss and critically assess Armstrong’s contributions. The book is organized in three parts. In Section I: Analytical Metaphysics and Its Methodology, certain basic principles of analytic metaphysics advocated by Armstrong (such as truthmaker maximalism and the Doctrine of Ontological Free Lunch) and their consequences are critically examined. The articles of Section II: Laws of Nature, Dispositions, and (...)
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  27. Fred I. Dretske (1977). Laws of Nature. Philosophy of Science 44 (2):248-268.
    It is a traditional empiricist doctrine that natural laws are universal truths. In order to overcome the obvious difficulties with this equation most empiricists qualify it by proposing to equate laws with universal truths that play a certain role, or have a certain function, within the larger scientific enterprise. This view is examined in detail and rejected; it fails to account for a variety of features that laws are acknowledged to have. An alternative view is advanced in which laws are (...)
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  28. Dorothy Edgington (2004). Two Kinds of Possibility. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 78 (1):1–22.
    I defend a version of Kripke's claim that the metaphysically necessary and the knowable a priori are independent. On my version, there are two independent families of modal notions, metaphysical and epistemic, neither stronger than the other. Metaphysical possibility is constrained by the laws of nature. Logical validity, I suggest, is best understood in terms of epistemic necessity.
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  29. Crawford L. Elder (1994). Laws, Natures, and Contingent Necessities. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 54 (3):649-667.
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  30. Brian Ellis (1999). Response to David Armstrong. In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer. 39--43.
  31. Robert Farrell (1979). HARRE, R. & MADDEN, E. H., "Causal Powers: A Theory of Natural Necessity". [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy 57:114.
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  32. Milton Fisk (1970). Are There Necessary Connections in Nature? Philosophy of Science 37 (3):385-404.
    The following questions are discussed here. Is induction a reasonable procedure in the context of a denial of physically necessary connections? What is physical necessity? If induction does presuppose physical necessity, what amount of it is presupposed? It is argued that with logic as the only restriction on what is to count as a possible world, it is unreasonable to claim that observed connections, whether universal or statistical, will continue to hold. The concept of physical necessity is no more problematic (...)
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  33. Peter Forrest (2006). General Facts, Physical Necessity and the Metaphysics of Time. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 2:137-154.
    In this chapter I assume that we accept, perhaps reluctantly, general facts, that is states of affairs corresponding to universal generalizations. I then argue that, without any addition, this ontology provides us with physical necessities, and moreover with various grades of physical necessity, including the strongest grade, which I call absolute physical necessity. In addition there are consequences for our understanding of time. For this account, which I call the Mortmain Theory, provides a defence of No Futurism against an otherwise (...)
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  34. Peter Forrest (1996). Physical Necessity and the Passage of Time. In P. Riggs (ed.), Natural Kinds, Laws of Nature and Scientific Methodology. Kluwer Academic Publishers. 49--62.
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  35. Alfred Freddoso (1986). The Necessity of Nature. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):215-242.
    This paper lays out the main contours of an objectivistic account of natural necessity that locates its source within natural substances themselves. The key claims are that what occurs by a necessity of nature constitutes the culmination of deterministic natural tendencies and that these tendencies are themselves rooted in the natures or essences of natural substances. The paper concludes by discussing the notion of a law of nature as it emerges on this account.
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  36. George Goe (1967). Laws and Counterfactuals in Nagel: A Reply to Krimerman. Philosophical Studies 18 (1-2):24 - 27.
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  37. Steven Louis Goldman (1987). What is a Law of Nature? (D. M. Armstrong). [REVIEW] History of European Ideas 8 (1):97-97.
  38. Chhanda Gupta (1981). Necessity and Scientific Laws. In Krishna Roy (ed.), Mind, Language, and Necessity. Macmillan India.
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  39. John F. Halpin (1999). Nomic Necessity and Empiricism. Noûs 33 (4):630-643.
    character. So, we have learned from early on that laws are meant to portray a sort of necessity in nature. The comings and goings described by law are not merely contingently related. Rather, it is part of the concept of law that these events are connected in some significant way: "nomically" connected. One important desideratum for an account of law, then, is that it respect and perhaps explain this modal character.
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  40. Rom Harré (1993). Laws of Nature. Distributed in Usa by Focus Information Group.
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  41. Rom Harré (1975). Causal Powers: A Theory of Natural Necessity. Rowman and Littlefield.
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  42. Rom Harre & E. H. Madden (2008). Conceptual and Natural Necessity. In Ruth Groff (ed.), Revitalizing Causality: Realism About Causality in Philosophy and Social Science. Routledge.
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  43. Stephen C. Hetherington (1983). Tooley's Theory of Laws of Nature. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 13 (1):101 - 106.
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  44. Tyler Hildebrand (2013). Can Primitive Laws Explain? Philosophers' Imprint 13 (15):1-15.
    One reason to posit governing laws is to explain the uniformity of nature. Explanatory power can be purchased by accepting new primitives, and scientists invoke laws in their explanations without providing any supporting metaphysics. For these reasons, one might suspect that we can treat laws as wholly unanalyzable primitives. (John Carroll’s *Laws of Nature* (1994) and Tim Maudlin’s *The Metaphysics Within Physics* (2007) offer recent defenses of primitivism about laws.) Whatever defects primitive laws might have, explanatory weakness should not be (...)
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  45. Tyler Hildebrand (2013). Tooley's Account of the Necessary Connection Between Law and Regularity. Philosophical Studies 166 (1):33-43.
    Fred Dretske, Michael Tooley, and David Armstrong accept a theory of governing laws of nature according to which laws are atomic states of affairs that necessitate corresponding natural regularities. Some philosophers object to the Dretske/Tooley/Armstrong theory on the grounds that there is no illuminating account of the necessary connection between governing law and natural regularity. In response, Michael Tooley has provided a reductive account of this necessary connection in his book Causation (1987). In this essay, I discuss an improved version (...)
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  46. Herbert Hochberg (1981). Natural Necessity and Laws of Nature. Philosophy of Science 48 (3):386-399.
    The paper considers recent proposals by Armstrong, Dretske, and Tooley that revive the view that statements of laws of nature are grounded by the existence of higher order facts relating universals. Several objections to such a view are raised and an alternative analysis, recognizing general facts, is considered. Such an alternative is shown to meet a number of the objections raised against the appeal to higher order facts and it is also related to views of Hume and Wittgenstein. Further objections (...)
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  47. H.-C. Hung (1981). Nomic Necessity is Cross-Theoretic. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 32 (3):219-236.
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  48. Andreas Hüttemann (2014). Scientific Practice and Necessary Connections. Theoria 79 (1):29-39.
    In this paper I will introduce a problem for at least those Humeans who believe that the future is open.More particularly, I will argue that the following aspect of scientific practice cannot be explained by openfuture- Humeanism: There is a distinction between states that we cannot bring about (which are represented in scientific models as nomologically impossible) and states that we merely happen not to bring about. Open-future-Humeanism has no convincing account of this distinction. Therefore it fails to explain why (...)
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  49. Max Kistler (2002). The Causal Criterion of Reality and the Necessity of Laws of Nature. Metaphysica 3 (1):57-86.
    I propose an argument for the thesis that laws of nature are necessary in the sense of holding in all worlds sharing the properties of the actual world, on the basis of a principle I propose to call the Causal Criterion of Reality . The CCR says: for an entity to be real it is necessary and sufficient that it is capable to make a difference to causal interactions. The crucial idea here is that the capacity to interact causally - (...)
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  50. Arnold Koslow (2004). Laws and Possibilities. Philosophy of Science 71 (5):719-729.
    The initial part of this paper explores and rejects three standard views of how scientific laws might be systematically connected with physical necessity or possibility. The first concerns laws and their consequences, the second concerns the so‐called counterfactual connection, and the third concerns a possible worlds construction of physical necessity. The remaining part introduces a neglected notion of possibility, and, with the aid of some examples, illustrates the special way in which laws reduce or narrow down possibilities.
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