Fundamental laws and the completeness of physics

The status of fundamental laws is an important issue when deciding between the three broad ontological options of fundamentalism (of which the thesis that physics is complete is typically a sub-type), emergentism, and disorder or promiscuous realism. Cartwright’s assault on fundamental laws which argues that such laws do not, and cannot, typically state the facts, and hence cannot be used to support belief in a fundamental ontological order, is discussed in this context. A case is made in defence of a moderate form of fundamentalism, which leaves open the possibility of emergentism, but sets itself against the view that our best ontology is disordered. The argument, taking its cue from Bhaskar, relies on a consideration of the epistemic status of experiments, and the question of the possible generality of knowledge gained in unusual or controlled environments.
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DOI 10.1080/02698599908573625
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David Spurrett (2001). Cartwright on Laws and Composition. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 15 (3):253 – 268.

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