Law Statements

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian J. Boge (Bergische Universität Wuppertal)
About this topic
Summary Next to the ontological status of laws of nature, their linguistic representation can be of interest. Questions regarding law statements include which logical features are characteristic of law statements (universal quantification, conditional statements, material vs. counterfactual conditionals, modal operators… etc.), whether there even is such a thing as a general common form of such statements, whether there is always or even essentially a mathematic form, differential equations for example, what distinguishes statements of laws from accidental generalizations, and so forth.

These questions relate, in particular, to the “lawlikeness”-debate that dates back to logical empiricism, whose proponents focused on language analysis as the central method to solve philosophical problems. The guiding idea to define what a law of nature is was, for example, to split the problem into two parts: first, say what necessary and sufficient features statements, i.e., linguistic entities, must have in order to be counted as expressions of laws. Call those statements that fulfill the criteria -- like universality, containing only natural predicates, having conditional form, etc. -- "lawlike". Then, second, say that a law of nature (the ultimate target of the enquiry) is a true lawlike statement. Thus, overall, there are two separate tasks to tackle: find criteria for lawlikeness, then find out whether the respective statements are true (the latter task leads straight into conformation theory and its problems; see philpapers for confirmation). It should be said that no necessary or sufficient set of pure syntactic nor semantic criteria could ever be given.

Key works The seminal papers are Goodman 1954 and Hempel & Oppenheim 1948, see also the last chapter of Reichenbach 1947.
Introductions Psillos 2002
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  1. The Rise of the Concept of Laws of Nature Revisited.Francis Oakley - 2019 - Early Science and Medicine 24 (1):1-32.
    Over the course of the past half-century and in the wake of the first articles published on the matter by Edgar Zilsel, Joseph Needham, and myself, historians of science have come to focus with growing insistence on the rise to prominence among the seventeenthw-century mechanical philosophers of the concept of laws of nature and on the significant role it played in the emergence of early-modern science. Revisiting the case I made on that matter in 1961, this paper goes on to (...)
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  2. Laws: An Invariance- Based Account.James Woodward - 2018 - In Ott & Patton (eds.), Laws of Nature. Oxford University Press.
    This paper defends an invariance-based account of laws of nature: Laws are generalizations that remain invariant under various sorts of changes. Alternatively, laws are generalizations that exhibit a certain kind of independence from background conditions.
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  3. Laws Are Conditionals.Toby Friend - 2016 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 6 (1):123-144.
    The ubiquitous schema ‘All Fs are Gs’ dominates much philosophical discussion on laws but rarely is it shown how actual laws mentioned and used in science are supposed to fit it. After consideration of a variety of laws, including those obviously conditional and those superficially not conditional, I argue that we have good reason to support the traditional interpretation of laws as conditionals of some quantified form with a single object variable. I show how this conclusion impacts on the status (...)
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  4. Obtaining Laws Through Quantifying Experiments: Justifications of Pre-Service Physics Teachers in the Case of Electric Current, Voltage and Resistance.Ricardo Karam - 2015 - Science & Education 24 (5-6):699-723.
    The language of physics is mathematics, and physics ideas, laws and models describing phenomena are usually represented in mathematical form. Therefore, an understanding of how to navigate between phenomena and the models representing them in mathematical form is important for a physics teacher so that the teacher can make physics understandable to students. Here, the focus is on the “experimental mathematization,” how laws are established through quantifying experiments. A sequence from qualitative experiments to mathematical formulations through quantifying experiments on electric (...)
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  5. Is There an Intrinsic Criterion for Causal Lawlike Statements?Julien Blondeau & Michel Ghins - 2012 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 26 (4):381-401.
    A scientific mathematical law is causal if and only if it is a process law that contains a time derivative. This is the intrinsic criterion for causal laws we propose. A process is a space-time line along which some properties are conserved or vary. A process law contains a time variable, but only process laws that contain a time derivative are causal laws. An effect is identified with what corresponds to a time derivative of some property or magnitude in a (...)
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  6. Reply to Israel on the New Riddle of Induction.Robert Kowalenko - 2012 - Philosophia 40 (3):549-552.
    Israel 2004 claims that numerous philosophers have misinterpreted Goodman’s original ‘New Riddle of Induction’, and weakened it in the process, because they do not define ‘grue’ as referring to past observations. Both claims are false: Goodman clearly took the riddle to concern the maximally general problem of “projecting” any type of characteristic from a given realm of objects into another, and since this problem subsumes Israel’s, Goodman formulated a stronger philosophical challenge than the latter surmises.
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  7. O problemach w definiowaniu pojęcia prawa przyrody.Adrian A. Ziółkowski - 2012 - Filozofia Nauki 20 (2).
    The article is a critical commentary on explication of the notion of law of nature based on the concept of counterfactual proposition. The view in question was originally proposed in the 40’s of past century by Roderick M. Chisholm and Nelson Goodman (further referred to as ‘CG criterion’) and has been popular among philosophers ever since.
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  8. Laws and Lawmakers: Science, Metaphysics and the Laws of Nature * by Marc Lange.A. Drewery - 2011 - Analysis 71 (3):599-601.
    Marc Lange’s new book on laws offers a restatement and development of the account he proposed in Natural Laws and Scientific Practice (Oxford University Press, 2000), henceforth NLSP, and the new material is helpfully summarized in the preface. Laws and Lawmakers presents the key idea from NLSP in a rather more reader-friendly manner – this idea being roughly that the difference between laws and accidents is that laws, unlike accidents, form a ‘stable’ set, i.e. a logically closed set of truths (...)
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  9. Marc Lange. Laws and Lawmakers: Science, Metaphysics, and the Laws of Nature.Christopher Belanger - 2010 - Spontaneous Generations 4 (1):266-269.
    In Laws and Lawmakers: Science, Metaphysics, and the Laws of Nature, Marc Lange has presented an engagingly written, tightly argued, and novel philosophical account of the laws of nature. One of the intuitions behind the notion of a law of nature is, roughly, that of the many regularities we observe in the world there are some which appear to be due to mere happen-stance (“accidental” regularities, in the philosopher’s jargon), while others, which we call “laws,” seem to be possessed of (...)
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  10. Lange, Marc . Laws and Lawmakers: Science, Metaphysics, and the Laws of Nature . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009 . Pp. 280. $99.00 (Cloth); $24.95 (Paper). [REVIEW]Mark Lance & Maggie Little - 2010 - Ethics 120 (2):431-437.
  11. Laws and Lawmakers Science, Metaphysics, and the Laws of Nature.Marc Lange - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
    Laws form counterfactually stable sets -- Natural necessity -- Three payoffs of my account -- A world of subjunctives.
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  12. Hempel's Paradox, Law-Likeness and Causal Relations.Severin Schroeder - 2009 - Philosophical Investigations 32 (3):244-263.
    It is widely thought that Bayesian confirmation theory has provided a solution to Hempel's Paradox (the Ravens Paradox). I discuss one well-known example of this approach, by John Mackie, and argue that it is unconvincing. I then suggest an alternative solution, which shows that the Bayesian approach is altogether mistaken. Nicod's Condition should be rejected because a generalisation is not confirmed by any of its instances if it is not law-like. And even law-like non-basic empirical generalisations, which are expressions of (...)
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  13. Laws of Nature Versus System Laws.Gerhard Schurz - 2005 - In Jan Faye, Paul Needham, Uwe Scheffler & Max Urchs (eds.), Nature's Principles. Springer. pp. 255--268.
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  14. Enumerative Induction and Lawlikeness.Wolfgang Spohn - 2005 - Philosophy of Science 72 (1):164-187.
    The paper is based on ranking theory, a theory of degrees of disbelief (and hence belief). On this basis, it explains enumerative induction, the confirmation of a law by its positive instances, which may indeed take various schemes. It gives a ranking theoretic explication of a possible law or a nomological hypothesis. It proves, then, that such schemes of enumerative induction uniquely correspond to mixtures of such nomological hypotheses. Thus, it shows that de Finetti's probabilistic representation theorems may be transformed (...)
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  15. Laws Are Persistent Inductives Schemes.Wolfgang Spohn - 2004 - In F. Stadler (ed.), Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 11--135.
    The characteristic difference between laws and accidental generalizations lies in our epistemic or inductive attitude towards them. This idea has taken various forms and dominated the discussion about lawlikeness in the last decades. Hence, ranking theory with its resources of formalizing defeasible reasoning or inductive schemes seems ideally suited to explicate the idea in a formal way. This is what the paper attempts to do. Thus it will turn out that a law is simply the deterministic analogue of a sequence (...)
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  16. Dimensions of Scientific Law.Sandra D. Mitchell - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (2):242-265.
    Biological knowledge does not fit the image of science that philosophers have developed. Many argue that biology has no laws. Here I criticize standard normative accounts of law and defend an alternative, pragmatic approach. I argue that a multidimensional conceptual framework should replace the standard dichotomous law/ accident distinction in order to display important differences in the kinds of causal structure found in nature and the corresponding scientific representations of those structures. To this end I explore the dimensions of stability, (...)
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  17. Laws, Counterfactuals, Stability, and Degrees of Lawhood.Marc Lange - 1999 - Philosophy of Science 66 (2):243-267.
    I identify the special sort of stability (invariance, resilience, etc.) that distinguishes laws from accidental truths. Although an accident can have a certain invariance under counterfactual suppositions, there is no continuum between laws and accidents here; a law's invariance is different in kind, not in degree, from an accident's. (In particular, a law's range of invariance is not "broader"--at least in the most straightforward sense.) The stability distinctive of the laws is used to explicate what it would mean for there (...)
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  18. Approximation, Idealization, and Laws of Nature.Chuang Liu - 1999 - Synthese 118 (2):229-256.
    Traditional theories construe approximate truth or truthlikeness as a measure of closeness to facts, singular facts, and idealization as an act of either assuming zero of otherwise very small differences from facts or imagining ideal conditions under which scientific laws are either approximately true or will be so when the conditions are relaxed. I first explain the serious but not insurmountable difficulties for the theories of approximation, and then argue that more serious and perhaps insurmountable difficulties for the theory of (...)
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  19. Blame Not the Laws of Nature.Joseph Agassi - 1995 - Foundations of Science 1 (1):131-154.
    1. Lies, Error and Confusion 2. Lies 3. The Demarcation of Science: Historical 4. The Demarcation of Science: Recent 5. Observed Regularities and Laws of Nature.
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  20. Lawlikeness.Marc Lange - 1993 - Noûs 27 (1):1-21.
  21. An Epistemic Solution to Goodman's New Riddle of Induction.Rosemarie Rheinwald - 1993 - Synthese 95 (1):55 - 76.
    Goodman'snew riddle of induction can be characterized by the following questions: What is the difference between grue and green?; Why is the hypothesis that all emeralds are grue not lawlike?; Why is this hypothesis not confirmed by its positive instances?; and, Why is the predicate grue not projectible? I argue in favor of epistemological answers to Goodman's questions. The notions of lawlikeness, confirmation, and projectibility have to be relativized to (actual and counterfactual) epistemic situations that are determined by the available (...)
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  22. Confirmation and Law-Likeness.Elliott Sober - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (1):93-98.
  23. Scientific Knowledge: Causation, Explanation, and Corroboration. [REVIEW]Wayne A. Davis - 1987 - Review of Metaphysics 41 (1):136-137.
    This is an extended study in the philosophy of science. Fetzer generally defends and refines the Hempelian theory of explanation, the Popperian theory of corroboration, a possible-worlds semantics for subjunctive conditionals, an intensional analysis of laws of nature, and the single-case propensity theory of probability.
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  24. Die Inkonsistenz Empiristischer Argumentation Im Zusammenhang MIT Dem Problem der Naturgesetzlichkeit.Dieter Wandschneider - 1986 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 17 (1):131-142.
    The well-known empiricist apories of the lawfulness of nature prevent an adequate philosophical interpretation of empirical science until this day. Clarification can only be expected through an immanent refutation of the empiricist point of view. My argument is that Hume’s claim, paradigmatic for modern empiricism, is not just inconsequent, but simply contradictory: Empiricism denies that a lawlike character of nature can be substantiated. But, as is shown, anyone who claimes experience to be the basis of knowledge (as the empiricist naturally (...)
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  25. Models and Lawlikeness.James E. Roper - 1982 - Synthese 52 (2):313 - 323.
    Do analogical models ever play an essential role in scientific explanation and confirmation, or is their role (at most) heuristic? For many years scientists and philosophers have debated this question. I argue that such models may sometimes play an essential role. My argument is based on a proposal to augment Goodman''s theory of projection in order to make it easier for novel predicates (extensions) to acquire entrenchment. The heart of this proposal is the claim that analogical models may, under certain (...)
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  26. Causes, Laws, and Law Statements.Donald Nute - 1981 - Synthese 48 (3):347 - 369.
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  27. Lawlikeness and the End of Science.C. Z. Elgin - 1980 - Philosophy of Science 47 (1):56-68.
    Although our theories are not precisely true, scientific realists contend that we should admit their objects into our ontology. One justification--offered by Sellars and Putnam--is that current theories belong to series that converge to ideally adequate theories. I consider the way the commitment to convergence reflects on the interpretation of lawlike claims. I argue that the distinction between lawlike and accidental generalizations depends on our cognitive interests and reflects our commitment to the direction of scientific progress. If the sciences disagree (...)
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  28. HARRE, R. & MADDEN, E. H., "Causal Powers: A Theory of Natural Necessity". [REVIEW]Robert Farrell - 1979 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 57:114.
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  29. Coextensiveness and Lawlikeness.John L. King - 1979 - Erkenntnis 14 (3):359 - 363.
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  30. Laws and Counterfactuals.Peter van Inwagen - 1979 - Noûs 13 (4):439-453.
  31. Generality and Nomological Form.Mark Wilson - 1979 - Philosophy of Science 46 (1):161-164.
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  32. HARRÉ, R. And MADDEN, E. H. "Causal Powers: A Theory of Natural Necessity". [REVIEW]B. Carr - 1978 - Mind 87:305.
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  33. Sortal Terms and Natural Laws.E. J. Lowe - 1978 - American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (3):253-60.
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  34. Reichenbach's Theory of Nomological Statements.Evan K. Jobe - 1977 - Synthese 35 (2):231 - 254.
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  35. The Likeness of Lawlikeness.James H. Fetzer - 1974 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1974:377 - 391.
    The thesis of this paper is that extensional language alone provides an essentially inadequate foundation for the logical formalization of any lawlike statement. The arguments presented are intended to demonstrate that lawlike sentences are logically general dispositional statements requiring an essentially intensional reduction sentence formulation. By introducing a non-extensional logical operator, the 'fork', the difference between universal and statistical laws emerges in a distinction between dispositional predicates of universal strength as opposed to those of merely statistical strength. While the logical (...)
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  36. Inductive Immodesty and Lawlikeness.Juhani Pietarinen - 1974 - Philosophy of Science 41 (2):196-198.
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  37. Criteria of Acceptation the General Statements as Natural Laws.Stanislaw Mazierski - 1973 - Roczniki Filozoficzne 21 (3):42.
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  38. The Conception of Lawlikeness in Kant's Philosophy of Science.Gerd Buchdahl - 1972 - Synthese 23 (1-2):24 - 46.
    A demarcation between kant's general metaphysics (transcendental principles) and his special metaphysics is attempted, through a discussion of kant's three accounts of lawlikeness, 'transcendental', 'empirical' and 'metaphysical'. the distinctions are defended via a number of 'indicators' in kant's writings, and the 'looseness of fit' between the different types of lawlikeness is discussed.
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  39. Lawlikeness, Analogy, and Inductive Logic.Juhani Pietarinen - 1972 - Amsterdam: North-Holland Pub. Co..
  40. Rules of Acceptance, Indices of Lawlikeness, and Singular Inductive Inference: Reply to a Critical Discussion.Risto Hilpinen & Jaakko Hintikka - 1971 - Philosophy of Science 38 (2):303-307.
  41. Laws, Coincidences, Counterfactuals and Counter-Identicals.R. A. Sharpe - 1971 - Mind 80 (320):572-582.
  42. Statistics, Induction, and Lawlikeness: Comments on Dr. Vetter's Paper.Jaakko Hintikka - 1969 - Synthese 20 (1):72 - 83.
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  43. The Regularity Theory.Bernard Berofsky - 1968 - Noûs 2 (4):315-340.
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  44. On a Claim by Skyrms Concerning Lawlikeness and Confirmation.Carl G. Hempel - 1968 - Philosophy of Science 35 (3):274-278.
  45. Maximal Specificity and Lawlikeness in Probabilistic Explanation.Carl Gustav Hempel - 1968 - Philosophy of Science 35 (2):116-133.
    The article is a reappraisal of the requirement of maximal specificity (RMS) proposed by the author as a means of avoiding "ambiguity" in probabilistic explanation. The author argues that RMS is not, as he had held in one earlier publication, a rough substitute for the requirement of total evidence, but is independent of it and has quite a different rationale. A group of recent objections to RMS is answered by stressing that the statistical generalizations invoked in probabilistic explanations must be (...)
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  46. Some Recent Work on the Problem of Law.Evan K. Jobe - 1967 - Philosophy of Science 34 (4):363-381.
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  47. Lawlikeness=Truth?John R. Wallace - 1966 - Journal of Philosophy 63 (24):780-781.
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  48. Laws and Counterfactuals.Leonard I. Krimerman - 1965 - Philosophical Studies 16 (3):40 - 44.
  49. The Logical Status of Natural Laws.R. A. Sharpe - 1964 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 7 (1-4):414-416.
    In this note I have presented the essentials of a view of how laws are falsified, a view which has been held by some notable philosophers but which is radically opposed to that of Professor Popper. I have not scrupled to ?improve? upon it, so the view of no one philosopher is presented. I try to show that an interesting and convincing account of scientific simplicity is implicit in the theory and I conclude by suggesting how we can bring the (...)
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  50. Professor Nagel on Abstractive Theories and Experimental Laws.Leo Simons - 1964 - Philosophy of Science 31 (2):163-167.
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