Sober and Elgin on laws of biology: A critique [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Biology and Philosophy 25 (2):249-256 (2010)
In this short discussion note, I discuss whether any of the generalizations made in biology should be construed as laws. Specifically, I examine a strategy offered by Elliot Sober ( 1997 ) and supported by Mehmet Elgin ( 2006 ) to reformulate certain biological generalizations so as to eliminate their contingency, thereby allowing them to count as laws. I argue that this strategy entails a conception of laws that is unacceptable on two counts: (1) Sober and Elgin’s approach allows the possibility of formulating laws describing any biological phenomenon whatsoever; and (2) on Sober and Elgin’s view, any interesting contrast between so-called laws and obviously accidental generalizations collapses. I conclude by offering suggestions to refine their view in order to avoid these theoretical problems.
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References found in this work BETA
Nancy Cartwright (1983). How the Laws of Physics Lie. Oxford University Press.
Saul A. Kripke (1980/1998). Naming and Necessity. Harvard University Press.
James Woodward (2003). Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation. Oxford University Press.
David K. Lewis (1986/2001). On the Plurality of Worlds. Blackwell Publishers.
Saul Kripke (2010). Naming and Necessity. In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Philosophy. Routledge 431-433.
Citations of this work BETA
Lane DesAutels (2011). Against Regular and Irregular Characterizations of Mechanisms. Philosophy of Science 78 (5):914-925.
Lindell Bromham (2011). Wandering Drunks and General Lawlessness in Biology: Does Diversity and Complexity Tend to Increase in Evolutionary Systems? Biology and Philosophy 26 (6):915-933.
Marion Blute (2010). Evolution's First Law?Biology's First Law: The Tendency for Diversity and Complexity to Increase in Evolutionary SystemsDaniel W. McShea and Robert N. Brandon Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010 (184 Pp; $55.00 Hbk, ISBN 978-0226562254; $20.00 Pbk, ISBN 978-0226562261). [REVIEW] Biological Theory 5 (2):194-197.
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