Scientific law: A perspectival account [Book Review]

Erkenntnis 58 (2):137 - 168 (2003)
Abstract
An acceptable empiricist account of laws of nature would havesignificant implications for a number of philosophical projects. For example, such an account may vitiate argumentsthat the fundamental constants of nature are divinelydesigned so that laws produce a life permittinguniverse. On an empiricist account, laws do not produce the universe but are designed by us to systematize theevents of a universe which does in fact contain life; so any ``fine tuning'' of natural law has a naturalistic explanation.But there are problems for the empiricist project. This paper develops a ``perspectival'' version of the Humean bestsystem approach and argues that this version solves the standard problems faced by the empiricist project.Furthermore, the paper argues, this version is best able to answer the proponents of divine design while leaving scientificlaw a suitably objective matter.[I]t is possible tocondense the enormous mass of results to a large extent – that is to find laws which summarize ...Richard Feynman (1963)It has become fashionable in some circles to argue thatscience is ultimately a sham, that we scientists read order into nature, not out of nature, and that the laws of physicsare our laws, not nature's. I believe this is arrant nonsense. You would be hard-pressed to convince a physicist thatNewton's inverse square law of gravitation is a purely cultural concoction. The laws of physics, I submit, reallyexist in the world out there, and the job of the scientist is to uncover them, not invent them. True, at any giventime, the laws you find in the textbooks are tentative and approximate, but they mirror, albeit imperfectly, a reallyexisting order in the physical world. Of course, many scientists do not recognize that in accepting the reality of anorder in nature-the existence of laws `out there' – they are adopting a theological world view. P. C. W. Davies (1995).
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