David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Erkenntnis 57 (3):281-301 (2002)
Many have claimed that ceteris paribus (CP) laws are a quite legitimate feature of scientific theories, some even going so far as to claim that laws of all scientific theories currently on offer are merely CP. We argue here that one of the common props of such a thesis, that there are numerous examples of CP laws in physics, is false. Moreover, besides the absence of genuine examples from physics, we suggest that otherwise unproblematic claims are rendered untestable by the mere addition of the CP operator. Thus, “CP all Fs are Gs” when read as a straightforward statement of fact, cannot be the stuff of scientific theory. Rather, we suggest that when ``ceteris paribus'' appears in scientific works it plays a pragmatic role of pointing to more respectable claims.
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