The nature of natural laws

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 60 (3):203 – 223 (1982)
That laws of nature play a vital role in explanation, prediction, and inductive inference is far clearer than the nature of the laws themselves. My hope here is to shed some light on the nature of natural laws by developing and defending the view that they involve genuine relations between properties. Such a position is suggested by Plato, and more recent versions have been sketched by several writers.~ But I am not happy with any of these accounts, not so much because they lack detail or engender minor difficulties, though they do, but because they share a quite fundamental defect. My goal here is to make this defect clear and, more importantly, to present a rather different version of this general conception of laws that avoids it. I begin by considering several features of natural laws and argue that these are best explained by the view that laws involve properties, that this involvement takes the form of a genuine relation between properties, and, finally, that the relation is a metaphysically necessary one. In the second section I start at the other end, and by reflecting on the nature of properties arrive at a similar account of natural laws. In the final section I develop this account in more detail, with emphasis on the nature of the relation between properties it invokes. Along the way several natural objections to the account are answered.
Keywords Property, Laws of nature, disposition, necessity
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References found in this work BETA
Paul Benacerraf (1973). Mathematical Truth. Journal of Philosophy 70 (19):661-679.
Fred I. Dretske (1977). Laws of Nature. Philosophy of Science 44 (2):248-268.

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Citations of this work BETA
Daniel Nolan (2011). The Extent of Metaphysical Necessity. Philosophical Perspectives 25 (1):313-339.
Richard Corry (2011). Can Dispositional Essences Ground the Laws of Nature? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (2):263 - 275.

View all 36 citations

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