Spinoza and the Concept of a Law of Nature

History of Philosophy Quarterly 20 (3):257 - 276 (2003)
In the early modern period, laws of nature underwent two re markable changes: first, their role in science and philosophy was greatly expanded as they became central to investigation and explanation; and second, ontology (are the laws “real” or not?) and induction emerged as far and away the most important problems of interpretation. The dramatic expansion in the variety of the laws and their range of application, together with the emergence of ontology and induction as (the) paramount problems of interpretation, so revolutionized thinking about such laws that it is hard for us, nowadays, to conceive of them in any other terms. For both historical and philosophical reasons, however, it is important that we try: historical, because as a matter of fact philosophers and scientists did not always conceive of laws of nature as we do today; philosophical, because there are ways of conceiving of the laws, different from the dominant conception nowadays, which, if properly attended to, might prove instructive.
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