Laws and criteria

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 32 (4):511-42 (2002)
Debates concerning the analysis of the concept of law of nature must address the following problem. On the one hand, our grasp of laws of nature is via our knowledge of their instances. And this seems not only an epistemological truth but also a semantic one. The concept of a law of nature must be explicated in terms of the things that instantiate the law. It is not simply that a piece of metal that conducts electricity is evidence for a law that metals conduct electricity. It is also the case that to explicate what it is for there to be such a law requires, and requires little more than, alluding to the fact that the piece of metal conducting electricity is an instance of that law. This is the driving intuition behind regularity theories of laws — to understand the concept ‘law,’ as in ‘it is a law that metals conduct electricity’ one need only understand little more than what it is for something to be a metal and to conduct electricity and the concept of universal generalization. On this view a law just is a regularity (or some kind of regularity) among its instances.
Keywords laws
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DOI 10.2307/40232164
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