What a Law of Nature is

The title of David Armstrong’s book on the topic asks “What is a Law of Nature?” [1] The answer I will develop and motivate in this paper is that causal laws are analyses of dispositions. We describe dispositions in terms of subjunctive conditionals. For sugar to be soluble in water, for instance, is just for it to be such that if it were submerged in water (under appropriate conditions), it would dissolve. In general, we can say that for a thing to have a disposition is for it to be such that were certain precipitating conditions to obtain, then a certain manifestation of the disposition would occur. [2] In the case of solubility, being submerged in water (under appropriate conditions) is the precipitating condition for the manifestation of going into solution. A careful account of the conditions under which sugar would go into solution in water, that is, an account of the specific nature of its solubility, would be a statement of law. That statement of law would tell us something about the nature of sugar in terms of the dispositions it grounds.
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