Anti-Realism about Laws

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian J. Boge (Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Aachen University of Technology)
About this topic
Summary Some argue that laws of nature don't exist or even that the concept of a law of nature is flawed. These claims can go into at least two directions: through and through anti-metaphysical, anti-realist, empiricist positions as, for example, that of Bas Van Fraassen, or positions in the opposite metaphysical direction which reduce laws to metaphysically robust entities like causal powers. The latter position has its beginning in Nancy Cartwright's works and finds a follower in, for example, Stephen Mumford.
Key works Two opposing anti-realist views come from van Fraassen 1989 (on the one hand) and Cartwright 1983 and Mumford 2004 (on the other hand). For why the two approaches are very different see Summary above. For Logical Empiricism inspired anti-realist positions see Ryle 1949 (p. 117 ff.), Goodman 1954 (p. 21 ff.), and Ayer 1963 (p. 230 ff.).
Introductions There are no introductions specifically on this subject but see the general entry "Laws of Nature" and references there.
Related categories

97 found
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  1. added 2019-01-25
    The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science. [REVIEW]Eric Winsberg, Mathias Frisch, Karen Merikangas Darling & Arthur Fine - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (7):403-408.
  2. added 2019-01-18
    Duhem and Cartwright on the Truth of Laws.Paul Needham - 1991 - Synthese 89 (1):89 - 109.
    Nancy Cartwright has drawn attention to how explanations are actually given in mathematical sciences. She argues that these procedures support an antirealist thesis that fundamental explanatory laws are not true. Moreover, she claims to be be essentially following Duhem's line of thought in developing this thesis. Without wishing to detract from the importance of her observations, it is suggested that they do not necessarily require the antirealist thesis. The antirealist interpretation of Duhem is also disputed. It is argued that Duhemian (...)
  3. added 2019-01-15
    Science and Ontology.Yvonne Raley - 2007 - The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 12:143-147.
    Many philosophers (such as, for instance, Nancy Cartwright, Brian Ellis, and Hartry Field) regard scientific practice as the final arbiter in ontology. In this short paper, I argue that the very philosophers who profess to derive their ontological commitments from scientific practice impose certain views on the theories established by that practice that the practice itself does not support. This is not consistent with their view that science tells us what there is.
  4. added 2019-01-15
    Ronald Giere: Science Without Laws. [REVIEW]Jim Woodward - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (2):379-384.
  5. added 2019-01-15
    Capacities, Natures and Pluralism: A New Metaphysics for Science?Peter Menzies - 2002 - Philosophical Books 43:261-270.
  6. added 2018-12-03
    Principles of Motion and the Absence of Laws of Nature in Hobbes's Natural Philosophy.Stathis Psillos & Eirini Goudarouli - forthcoming - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science.
  7. added 2017-12-18
    Urbach on the Laws of Nature.Christopher Hitchcock - 1992 - Analysis 52 (2):61 - 64.
  8. added 2017-12-12
    How the Models of Chemistry Vie.James R. Hofmann - 1990 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990:405 - 419.
    Building upon Nancy Cartwright's discussion of models in How the Laws of Physics Lie, this paper addresses solid state research in transition metal oxides. Historical analysis reveals that in this domain models function both as the culmination of phenomenology and the commencement of theoretical explanation. Those solid state chemists who concentrate on the description of phenomena pertinent to specific elements or compounds assess models according to different standards than those who seek explanation grounded in approximate applications of the Schroedinger equation. (...)
  9. added 2017-10-16
    Laws of Nature Outlawed.Stephen Mumford - 1998 - Dialectica 52 (2):83-101.
    SummaryThere are two rival ways in which events in the world can be explained: the covering law way and the dispositionalist way. The covering law model, which takes the law of nature as its fundamental explanatory unit, faces a number of renown difficulties. Rather than attempt to patch up this approach, the alternative dispositionalist strategy is recommended. On this view, general facts are dependent upon particular facts about what things do, rather than vice versa. This way of viewing the world (...)
  10. added 2017-10-16
    Where Do Laws of Nature Come From?Nancy Cartwright - 1997 - Dialectica 51 (1):65-78.
  11. added 2017-08-30
    Science and the Systematicity of Nature: A Critique of Nancy Cartwright's Doctrine of Nature and Natural Science.Philip Ellery Catton - 1991 - Dissertation, The University of Western Ontario (Canada)
    Whether nature is or is not systematic sounds at first like an idle metaphysical question, but considered in relation to the aims of science and the methods of appraisal of scientific theories, it can be given clear content. It is also necessary to ask the question in order to study the relation of causation, laws of nature, and theoretical structure. ; Aims. The doctrines that science aims to provide explanations, that science achieves success in this aim, that explanation involves unification, (...)
  12. added 2017-05-26
    Bas C. Van Fraassen Laws and Symmetry. [REVIEW]Michael Tooley - 1995 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (2):280.
  13. added 2017-05-26
    Laws and Meaning Postulates in van Fraassen's View of Theories.Linda Wessels - 1974 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1974:215 - 234.
  14. added 2017-04-28
    Critical Notice: Laws in Nature.Stathis Psillos - 2006 - Metascience 15:437-69.
  15. added 2017-04-28
    Book Review:Laws and Symmetry Bas C. Van Fraassen. [REVIEW]Joel M. Smith - 1993 - Philosophy of Science 60 (4):661-.
  16. added 2017-04-28
    Fundamental Laws and Ad Hoc Decisions: A Reply to Curry.Christopher Ray - 1992 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 23 (4):661-664.
  17. added 2017-04-28
    Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement. Nancy Cartwright.Huw Price - 1991 - Isis 82 (3):605-606.
  18. added 2017-03-29
    Causes and Contexts: The Foundations of Laser Theory.Margaret Morrison - 1994 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45 (1):127-151.
    One of Nancy Cartwright's arguments for entity realism focuses on the non-redundancy of causal explanation. In How the Laws of Physics Lie she uses an example from laser theory to illustrate how we can have a variety of theoretical treatments governing the same phenomena while allowing just one causal story. In the following I show that in the particular example Cartwright chooses causal explanation exhibits the same kind of redundancy present in theoretical explanation. In an attempt to salvage Cartwright's example (...)
  19. added 2017-03-29
    Book Review:Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement Nancy D. Cartwright. [REVIEW]Frederick M. Kronz - 1994 - Philosophy of Science 61 (1):155-.
  20. added 2017-02-28
    Stephen Mumford Laws In Nature London, Routledge, 2004 Hardback £60.00 ISBN 0-415-31128-4. [REVIEW]Simon Bostock - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (2):449-452.
  21. added 2017-02-28
    Laws and Symmetry. [REVIEW]Michael Tooley - 1995 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (2):280.
  22. added 2017-02-28
    In Defense of Laws: Reflections on Bas van Fraassen's Laws and Symmetry.John Earman - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (2):413-419.
    The topic of laws of nature provides a kind of Rorschach test for philosophy. Some philosophers see in laws only Humean regularities; others see a kind of physical necessity; others see a necessity closer to logical necessity; others see expressions of causal powers; others see inference tickets; still others see relations between universals; ... ; and some see only a messy inkblot. We can also perform a meta-Rorschach test on the results of the first test. When van Fraassen and I (...)
  23. added 2017-02-28
    Laws and Symmetry. [REVIEW]Joel M. Smith - 1993 - Philosophy of Science 60 (4):659.
  24. added 2017-02-28
    How the Laws of Physics Lie. [REVIEW]Geoffrey Joseph - 1985 - Philosophical Review 94 (4):580.
  25. added 2017-02-22
    Precis of Laws and Symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (2):411 - 412.
  26. added 2017-02-02
    Reply to Cartwright.W. P. - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32 (3):499-500.
  27. added 2017-01-28
    The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science. [REVIEW]Stephen Mumfordt - 2000 - Philosophy 75 (4):613-626.
  28. added 2017-01-27
    Review of HOW the Laws of Physics Lie, by N. Cartwright. [REVIEW]C. Dilworth - 1987 - Epistemologia 10:143-145.
  29. added 2017-01-26
    Is the World Really'dappled'? A Response to Cartwright's Charge Against'cross-Wise Reduction'.Ruphy Stephanie - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (1).
  30. added 2017-01-23
    Getting Away From Governance: A Structuralist Approach to Laws and Symmetries.Angelo Cei & Steven French - unknown
    Dispositionalist accounts of scientific laws are currently at the forefront of discussions in the metaphysics of science. However, Mumford has presented such accounts with the following dilemma: if laws are to have a governing role, then they cannot be grounded in the relevant dispositions; if on the other hand, they are so grounded, then they cannot perform such a role. Mumford’s solution is drastic: to do away with laws as metaphysically substantive entities altogether. Dispositionalist accounts are also deficient in that (...)
  31. added 2017-01-23
    Stephen Mumford Laws in Nature London, Routledge, 2004 Hardback £60.00 ISBN 0-415-31128-. [REVIEW]Simon Bostock - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (2):449-452.
  32. added 2017-01-23
    Reply to Cartwright.Philip W. Anderson - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32 (3):499-500.
    I am afraid that Nancy Cartwright and I will have to agree to disagree, on the whole. If my review comes through as harsh, it is perhaps the natural response of a quantum theorist who has worked in economics to a book in which physics and economics are treated as epistemically identical.
  33. added 2017-01-23
    Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?Nancy Cartwright - 1998 - In M. Curd & J. A. Cover (eds.), Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues. Norton. pp. 865-877.
  34. added 2017-01-23
    The Reality of Causes in a World of Instrumental Laws.Nancy Cartwright - 1980 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:38 - 48.
    Philosophers of science nowadays are inclined to believe in physical laws, but generally, like Hume and Russell, to reject causes. This paper urges the reverse. Explanatory practice in physics argues that we must take literally the causal stories that our theories provide, but the fundamental laws and equations that are essential to modern science are merely instrumental.
  35. added 2017-01-22
    Review: Nancy Cartwright's New Philosophy of Physics. [REVIEW]Peter Gibbins - 1984 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 35 (4):390 - 401.
  36. added 2017-01-21
    Reply to P. Andersons Review of "The Dappled World".Nancy Cartwright - unknown
  37. added 2017-01-21
    Book Review:How the Laws of Physics Lie Nancy Cartwright. [REVIEW]Malcolm R. Forster - 1985 - Philosophy of Science 52 (3):478-.
  38. added 2017-01-19
    Review: The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science. [REVIEW]Storrs Mccall - 2003 - Mind 112 (445):99-106.
  39. added 2017-01-16
    Cartwright and the Lying Laws of Physics.Ronald Laymon - 1989 - Journal of Philosophy 86 (7):353.
  40. added 2016-12-29
    Causal Methodology. A Comment on Nancy Cartwright's Hunting Causes and Using Them. [REVIEW]Erik Weber - 2010 - Analysis 70 (2):318-325.
    (No abstract is available for this citation).
  41. added 2016-12-29
    The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science.Nancy Cartwright - 1999 - Cambridge University Press.
    It is often supposed that the spectacular successes of our modern mathematical sciences support a lofty vision of a world completely ordered by one single elegant theory. In this book Nancy Cartwright argues to the contrary. When we draw our image of the world from the way modern science works - as empiricism teaches us we should - we end up with a world where some features are precisely ordered, others are given to rough regularity and still others behave in (...)
  42. added 2016-12-29
    On the Unity of Physics in a Dappled World. Comment on Nancy Cartwright.Manfred Stöckler - 1998 - Philosophia Naturalis 35 (1):35-39.
  43. added 2016-12-29
    Précis of Laws and Symmetry.Basc van Fraassen - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (2):411-412.
  44. added 2016-12-08
    Laws Are Not Descriptions.Federico Laudisa - 2015 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 29 (3):251-270.
    The view that takes laws of nature to be essentially nothing more than descriptions of facts is still rather popular. The present article, on the contrary, defends the claim that the only real motivation for defending a descriptive view of laws—the quest for ontological parsimony—entails too high a price to pay in philosophical terms. It is argued that nomic primitivism, namely the alternative option that takes laws to be primitive fundamental entities in our ontology, is decisively more appealing, since it (...)
  45. added 2016-12-08
    Contra Cartwright: Structural Realism, Ontological Pluralism and Fundamentalism About Laws.Dan Mcarthur - 2006 - Synthese 151 (2):233-255.
    In this paper I argue against Nancy Cartwright's claim that we ought to abandon what she calls "fundamentalism" about the laws of nature and adopt instead her "dappled world" hypothesis. According to Cartwright we ought to abandon the notion that fundamental laws apply universally, instead we should consider the law-like statements of science to apply in highly qualified ways within narrow, non-overlapping and ontologically diverse domains, including the laws of fundamental physics. For Cartwright, "laws" are just locally applicable refinements of (...)
  46. added 2016-12-08
    Laws and Lawlessness.Stephen Mumford - 2005 - Synthese 144 (3):397-413.
    I develop a metaphysical position that is both lawless and anti-Humean. The position is called realist lawlessness and contrasts with both Humean lawlessness and nomological realism – the claim that there are laws in nature. While the Humean view also allows no laws, realist lawlessness is not Humean because it accepts some necessary connections in nature between distinct properties. Realism about laws, on the other hand, faces a central dilemma. Either laws govern the behaviour of properties from the outside or (...)
  47. added 2016-11-29
    Is the World Really “Dappled”? A Response to Cartwright’s Charge Against “Cross‐Wise Reduction”.Stéphanie Ruphy - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (1):57-67.
    Nancy Cartwright's charge against horizontal reductionism leads to a claim about how the world is, namely "dappled." By proposing a simple thought-experiment, I show that Cartwright's division of the world into "nomological" machines and "messy" systems for which no law applies is meaningless. The thought-experiment shows that for a system, having the property of being a nomological machine depends on what kind of questions you ask about it. No metaphysical conclusion about the world being unruly or not can be drawn (...)
  48. added 2016-11-29
    Nancy Cartwright: Laws, Capa­cities and Science.Matthias Paul (ed.) - 1999 - LIT-Verlag.
  49. added 2016-11-29
    The Lies Remain the Same: A Reply to Chalmers.Steve Clarke - 1995 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73 (1):152 – 155.
    In her 1983 work How the Laws of Phyiscs Lie [1] Nancy Cartwright argued for antirealism about fundamental laws alongside realism about phenomenological laws. Her position was considerably altered by 1989 when, in Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement [2], she argued for a realist construal of capacities (close relations of Powers, natures, tendencies, propensities and disptısitions), which she took fundamental laws to be about. Most realists about capaeities, and their ilk, are realist about fundamental laws as well. However this is (...)
  50. added 2016-11-29
    How Untidy is God's Mind? A Note on the Dynamical Implications of Nancy Cartwright's Metaphysics.Harmke Kamminga & Reza Tavakol - 1993 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (3):549-553.
    One of the points of principle made by Cartwright is that the fundamental laws do not describe reality because they are always employed together with ceteris paribus clauses, the implication being that ceteris paribus assumptions always have dire consequences. We here wish to offer a dynamical interpretation of ceteris paribus laws in terms of their stability or fragility. On this interpretation, the consequences of ceteris paribus assumptions become concretely dependent on the nature of the laws under consideration and cannot be (...)
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