Laws and lawmakers: Science, metaphysics and the laws of nature * by Marc Lange

Analysis 71 (3):599-601 (2011)
Marc Lange’s new book on laws offers a restatement and development of the account he proposed in Natural Laws and Scientific Practice (Oxford University Press, 2000), henceforth NLSP, and the new material is helpfully summarized in the preface. Laws and Lawmakers presents the key idea from NLSP in a rather more reader-friendly manner – this idea being roughly that the difference between laws and accidents is that laws, unlike accidents, form a ‘stable’ set, i.e. a logically closed set of truths such that they would all still hold under any counterfactual supposition consistent with the set. So, for example, the natural laws all still hold under counterfactual suppositions such as ‘had this match been struck …’, ‘had Bill Gates wanted to build a gold cube one mile across’ and so on; thus this set is stable. But the set of laws plus the accidental claim ‘there is no gold cube one mile across’ fails to hold under such counterfactual suppositions because had Bill Gates wanted to build a gold cube one mile across, such a cube might well have come into existence; thus this set is not stable. While the basic outline and defence of this idea is provided in Chapter 1, those wishing to delve into the intricate …
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