Necessitarianism about Laws

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian J. Boge (Bergische Universität Wuppertal)
About this topic
Summary Necessitarians about laws believe that natural laws govern the events in the world: what a law says must happen (or, what a law forbids can’t happen). This intuition might partially originate in our actual day-to-day experiences when we feel resistance against some of our actions. It might also have an inference to the best explanation at its heart: unless we assume some kind of nomological or metaphysical necessity in the world we cannot explain what a law of nature is.
Key works Orthodox necessitarian accounts are Armstrong's, Tooley's, Dretske's and Swoyer's: Armstrong 1983, Tooley 1997Dretske 1977Swoyer 1982. Necessity finds also its way into the analysis of laws within dispositional essentialist views: Bird 2007, Ellis 2001.
Introductions Psillos 2002
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1 — 50 / 152
  1. added 2020-04-20
    On metaphysically necessary laws from physics.Niels Linnemann - 2020 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 10 (2):1-13.
    How does metaphysical necessity relate to the modal force often associated with natural laws? Fine argues that natural necessity can neither be obtained from metaphysical necessity via forms of restriction nor of relativization — and therefore pleads for modal pluralism concerning natural and metaphysical necessity. Wolff, 898–906, 2013) aims at providing illustrative examples in support of applying Fine’s view to the laws of nature with specific recourse to the laws of physics: On the one hand, Wolff takes it that equations (...)
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  2. added 2020-01-09
    Laws of Nature: a philosophical approach / Leis da Natureza: uma abordagem filosófica.Rodrigo Reis Lastra Cid - 2019 - Macapá, Brazil: Editora da Universidade Federal do Amapá.
    This book deals with an internal theme of metaphysics, which is the metaphysics of the laws of nature. The author presents traditional contemporary theories, as well as his own original theory, and evaluates each one at a time. He also addresses the problem of the modality of the laws of nature and makes some criticism of the standard view of necessity as truth in all possible worlds, and shows an application of his discussion to the metaphysics of physics. / Este (...)
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  3. added 2020-01-09
    Are the laws of nature metaphysically necessary? / São as leis da natureza metafisicamente necessárias?Rodrigo Cid - 2016 - Dissertation, Universidade Federal Do Rio de Janeiro
    The main intent of this thesis is to defend that the laws of nature are better thought as transcendent universals, such as platonic governism suggests, and that they are metaphysically necessary in a strong way, such as the heterodox version of such platonism defends. With this intention, we sustain that physical symmetries are essential consequences of the laws of nature – what solves the challenge of symmetries – thus being metaphysically necessary, without being governist's necessitation laws. First, we will show (...)
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  4. added 2020-01-09
    Necessity, possibility, and laws of nature / A necessidade, a possibilidade e as leis da natureza.Rodrigo Cid - 2010 - Investigação Filosófica 1:paper 1.
    We intend at this article to show some reasons to think the laws of nature as metaphysically necessary: to distinguish the metaphysical modality from the epistemical modality, and to have an absolute modality to face the relative physical and logical modalities. Lately, we indicate what does it mean to talk about metaphysically necessary laws, distinguishing two kinds of metaphysical modalities, and we account for the question about if the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. The conclusion we get is that (...)
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  5. added 2019-12-30
    Against the metaphysical necessity of the law 'salt dissolves in water' / Contra a necessidade metafísica da lei 'o sal se dissolve em água'.Rodrigo Cid - 2010 - Abstracta : Linguagem, Mente E Ação 6:65-70.
    In this paper, I intend to argue against Alexander Bird‟s thesis (2001) that the law salt dissolves in water is metaphysically necessary. I briefly indicate Bird‟s argument for the necessity of such law, and then I provide a counter-argument to his thesis. In a general way, Bird wants to show that the existence of certain substances depends on the truth of certain laws, and that because of this the existence of such substances implies the existence of such laws. That would (...)
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  6. added 2019-10-28
    Five Sources of Contingency for Dispositionalism.Michele Paolini Paoletti - 2020 - Metaphysica 21 (1):9-30.
    Law dispositionalism is the doctrine according to which laws of nature are grounded on powers/dispositions. In this article, I shall examine how certain laws of nature can turn out to be contingent on this view. First of all, I shall distinguish between two versions of law dispositionalism (i.e., a weak and a strong one) and I shall also single out two further theses that may be conjoined with it (i.e., strong and weak dispositional essentialism). I shall then define four different (...)
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  7. added 2019-10-04
    Necessary Laws and the Problem of Counterlegals.Samuel Kimpton-Nye - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
    Substantive counterlegal discourse poses a problem for those according to whom the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. I discern two types of necessitarianism about laws: Dispositional Essentialism and Modal Necessitarianism. I argue that Handfield (2004)’s response to the problem of counterlegals cannot help the Modal Necessitarian, according to whom all possible worlds are identical with respect to the laws. I thus propose a fictionalist treatment of counterlegals. Fictions are not limited by metaphysical possibility, hence, fictionalism affords the Modal Necessitarian (...)
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  8. added 2019-10-04
    Quidditism and Contingent Laws.Umut Baysan - 2019 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 8 (4):286-290.
    According to contingentism, laws of nature hold contingently. An objection to contingentism is that it implies quidditism, and therefore inherits its implausible consequences. This paper argues that this objection is misguided. Understood one way, quidditism is not an implication of contingentism, hence even if it has implausible consequences, these are not relevant to contingentism. Understood another way, quidditism is implied by contingentism, but it is less clear if this version of quidditism has the same implausible consequences. Whatever the merits of (...)
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  9. added 2019-10-04
    What Laws? Which Past?: Meillassoux’s Hyper-Chaos and the Epistemological Limitations of Retro-Causation.Michael J. Ardoline - 2018 - Open Philosophy 1 (1):235-244.
    The question of the metaphysical status of the laws of physics has received increased attention in recent years. Perhaps most well-known among this work are David Lewis’s Humean supervenience and Nancy Cartwright’s dispositionalism, both of which reject the classical conception of the laws of physics as necessary and real independent of the objects they govern, arguing instead that what we call laws are shorthand for the regularities of local states of affairs or the dispositions of objects. The properties of necessity (...)
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  10. added 2019-08-13
    Lockean Essentialism and the Possibility of Miracles.Nathan Rockwood - 2018 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 56 (2):293-310.
    If the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary, then it appears that miracles are metaphysically impossible. Yet Locke accepts both Essentialism, which takes the laws to be metaphysically necessary, and the possibility of miracles. I argue that the apparent conflict here can be resolved if the laws are by themselves insufficient for guaranteeing the outcome of a particular event. This suggests that, on Locke’s view, the laws of nature entail how an object would behave absent divine intervention. While other views (...)
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  11. added 2019-04-26
    Scientific Practice and Necessary Connections.Andreas Hüttemann - 2014 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 29 (1):29-39.
    There have been various attempts to argue from the _success_ of certain aspects of scientific practice to the existence of necessary connections between distinct events. Many of these arguments are based on an inference to the best explanation. I will start by reviewing some of these IBE arguments as well as their recent critique by Helen Beebee. Beebee’s critique is convincing with regard to the particular arguments she criticises. I will, however, present other aspects of scientific practice that need to (...)
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  12. added 2019-03-27
    Best Before Date Necessity: A Reply to Psillos.Eduardo Castro - 2019 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (1):163-169.
    This discussion paper is a reply to Stathis Psillos’ paper “Induction and Natural Necessities” :327–340, (2017), published in this journal. In that paper, he attempts to refute David Armstrong’s solution to the problem of induction. To accomplish this desideratum, he proposes that the best explanation for our observed regularities is a sort of “best before date” necessity. That is, necessary connections may break down and are not by default timeless. He develops arguments against my :67–82, (2014) defence of the necessitarian (...)
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  13. added 2018-07-20
    Emergentism and the Contingent Solubility of Salt.Lok-Chi Chan - 2018 - Theoria 84 (4):309-324.
    Alexander Bird (2001; 2002; 2007) offers a powerful argument showing that, regardless of whether necessitarianism or contingentism about laws is true, salt necessarily dissolves in water. The argument is that the same laws of nature that are necessary for the constitution of salt necessitate the solubility of salt. This paper shows that Bird’s argument faces a serious objection if the possibility of emergentism – in particular, C. D. Broad’s account – is taken into account. The idea is (roughly) that some (...)
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  14. added 2018-02-17
    » The Nature of Natural Laws «.Chris Swoyer - 1982 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 60 (3):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 (...)
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  15. added 2017-10-16
    Necessary Laws? Seifert Vs. Oderberg.Vlastimil Vohánka - 2015 - Studia Neoaristotelica 12 (1):5-56.
    I discuss Josef Seifert, a realist phenomenologist, and David Oderberg, an Aristotelian. Both endorse essences, understood as objective quiddities. Both argue that no law of nature is strongly necessary: i.e. true in every possible world. But they disagree about weak necessity of laws: Seifert argues that no law is true in every possible world in which its referring expressions are non-empty, while Oderberg argues that some is. I restate, relate, and review reasons of both authors for each of those theses. (...)
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  16. added 2017-10-16
    On What Powers Cannot Do.Joel Katzav - 2005 - Dialectica 59 (3):331-345.
    Dispositionalism is the view that the world is, ultimately, just a world of objects and their irreducible dispositions, and that such dispositions are, ultimately, the sole explanatory ground for the occurrence of events. This view is motivated, partly, by arguing that it affords, while non‐necessitarian views of laws of nature do not afford, an adequate account of our intuitions about which regularities are non‐accidental. I, however, argue that dispositionalism cannot adequately account for our intuitions about which regularities are non‐accidental. Further, (...)
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  17. added 2017-10-16
    The Contingency of the Laws of Nature, by W. Tudor Jones. [REVIEW]Emile Boutroux - 1916 - Ethics 27:119.
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  18. added 2017-10-16
    The Contingency of the Laws of Nature.W. Tudor Jones - 1916 - International Journal of Ethics 27 (1):119-121.
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  19. added 2017-08-30
    Eternal and Expansive Super Necessitarianism: A New Interpretation of Spinoza's Metaphysics.Hannibal Jackson - unknown
    A key issue concerning the views of Spinoza is whether he is a necessitarian or if he allows for the existence of possibilities. Commentators on Spinoza agree that his metaphysics revolve around, at the very least, a deterministic universe in which the laws of nature, together with all preceding causes, determine everything that occurs. There is also agreement that Spinoza does allow for doxastic possibility, which involves humans being able to imagine different outcomes based on inadequate knowledge of preceding causes. (...)
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  20. added 2017-08-30
    A World of Contingencies.Robert E. Ulanowicz - 2013 - Zygon 48 (1):77-92.
    Physicalism holds that the laws of physics are inviolable and ubiquitous and thereby account for all of reality. Laws leave no “wiggle room” or “gaps” for action by numinous agents. They cannot be invoked, however, without boundary stipulations that perforce are contingent and which “drive” the laws. Driving contingencies are not limited to instances of “blind chance,” but rather span a continuum of amalgamations with regularities, up to and including nearly determinate propensities. Most examples manifest directionality, and their very definition (...)
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  21. added 2017-08-30
    Laws and Other Worlds: A Response to Martin.Fred Wilson - 1989 - Dialogue 28 (2):329.
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  22. added 2017-08-30
    Fred Wilson, Laws and Other Worlds Reviewed By.Stanley Kaminsky - 1987 - Philosophy in Review 7 (12):532-535.
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  23. added 2017-08-30
    On Walsh's Reading of Whewell's View of Necessity.Robert E. Butts - 1965 - Philosophy of Science 32 (2):175-181.
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  24. added 2017-08-30
    Necessary Truth in Whewell's Theory of Science.Robert E. Butts - 1965 - American Philosophical Quarterly 2 (3):161 - 181.
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  25. added 2017-04-28
    The Universality Of Scientific Laws And The Evolution Of The Universe.Jan Such - 2003 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 79:341-352.
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  26. added 2017-03-29
    Accessibility, Kinds, and Laws: A Structural Explication.Thomas Mormann - 1994 - Philosophy of Science 61 (3):389-406.
    "Accessibility" is a crucial concept of possible worlds semantics. The simplest approach to accessibility is the "magical theory" that construes this relation as analogous to spatial or temporal relations. In this paper I give a nonmagical structural account of the accessibility relation that can be used to give a necessitarian account of kinds and laws. Laws are characterized in a structural way as stable invariants of the world's gestalt. Finally, I point out how the structural approach can be embedded in (...)
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  27. added 2017-02-28
    Contingent Laws Rule: Reply to Bird.Helen Beebee - 2002 - Analysis 62 (3):252-255.
    In a recent paper (Bird 2001), Alexander Bird argues that the law that common salt dissolves in water is metaphysically necessary - and he does so without presupposing dispositionalism about properties. If his argument were sound, it would thus show that at least one law of nature is meta- physically necessary, and it would do so without illicitly presupposing a position (dispositionalism) that is already committed to a necessitarian view of laws. I shall argue that Bird's argument is unsuccesful.
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  28. added 2017-02-14
    Review of Alexander Bird, Nature's Metaphysics. [REVIEW]J. W. Carroll - forthcoming - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
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  29. added 2017-02-14
    Alexander Bird: Philosophy of Science.P. Lipton - 1999 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (1):163-168.
  30. added 2017-02-10
    Compte-Rendu de : Alexander Bird, Nature's Metaphysics -- Laws and Properties.Max Kistler - unknown
    No one has yet elaborated and defended with so much subtlety, rigour, and depth the exciting new metaphysics of nature that replaces both versions of the traditional categoricalist picture of nature...Reading Bird is highly rewarding: he sheds new light on many problems by analysing them in a new way...Bird's book holds promise to become the authoritative statement of the new dispositionalist metaphysics.
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  31. added 2017-02-09
    Laws and Other Worlds.George N. Schlesinger - 1989 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 19 (1):155-160.
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  32. added 2017-02-09
    Critical Notice of Brian Ellis, Rational Belief Systems.Bas C. van Fraassen - 1980 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 10 (3):497-511.
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  33. added 2017-01-29
    Ellis, Brian: Truth and Objectivity. [REVIEW]J. T. Whyte - 1991 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 42 (2):291.
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  34. added 2017-01-29
    SKYRMS, BRIAN: "Causal Necessity: A Pragmatic Investigation of the Necessity of Laws". [REVIEW]D. H. Mellor - 1983 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 34:97.
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  35. added 2017-01-27
    Alexander Bird, Philosophy of Science.M. X. Ashooh - 2000 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 14 (1):83-85.
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  36. added 2017-01-23
    Naturgesetze in einer kausalen Welt.Bartels Andreas - 2015 - mentis.
    How can the laws of nature, that determine how objects behave, be understood as natural objects themselves? The answer that transpires from the analysis of modern theories of the laws of nature is: laws of nature are due to the causal structure of our world. They express the causal efficiacy of fundamental properties of nature. In contrast to rivaling theories, this answer does justice to the fact that laws of nature determine the course of natural events without having to appeal (...)
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  37. added 2017-01-23
    On Whether Some Laws Are Necessary.A. Bird - 2002 - Analysis 62 (3):257-270.
    In Bird 2001 I argued that a law that might seem to many to be contingent is in fact necessary. In short the argument is this. Given the existence of salt and water, Coulomb’s law of electrostatic attraction is sufficient to make the former dissolve in the latter. So any possible world in which salt failed to dissolve in water would be one in which Coulomb’s law is false. However, it is also the case that the existence of salt depends (...)
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  38. added 2017-01-23
    Kinds, Laws and Perspectives.Sebastián Álvarez Toledo - 1st ed. 2015 - In Antonio Manuel Liz Gutiérrez & Margarita Vázquez Campos (eds.), Temporal Points of View. Springer Verlag.
    This chapter deals with the main characteristics of natural kinds, and analyzes three approaches to them. The first approach argues that natural kinds are characterized by their essential properties (in a modern, scientific sense), but encounter difficulties even on the physico-chemical level, which is where it seems to be better implemented. On the other hand, the constructivist stance, much more liberal, does not explain why certain kinds are inductively useful and not others. Third, an introduction, with comments, is provided on (...)
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  39. added 2017-01-23
    Laws: Projectability and Uniformity.G. M. K. Hunt - 1990 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 4 (3):241 – 246.
    Abstract It is argued that the problem of the necessity and projectability of laws may be solved by distinguishing between the fact of necessity and explanations of its nature. This reduces the problem of necessity to that of induction, which in consequences must be solved without reference to necessity using ?self?supporting? arguments. The consequences for the analysis of ?counterfactual conditionals and the problem of language dependence is discussed.
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  40. added 2017-01-16
    The “Constant” Threat to the Dispositional Essentialist Conception of Laws.Vassilios Livanios - 2014 - Metaphysica 15 (1).
    According to the dispositional essentialist account of laws of nature, the latter express the dispositional nature of fundamental natural properties. In this paper I discuss the difficulty that the existence of fundamental constants of nature raises for that account. To this end, I examine a relevant argument against the account and describe how an advocate of the dispositionalist conception may try to undermine it by raising objections to its premises. Then I discuss those objections and show that eventually all fail. (...)
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  41. added 2017-01-15
    How Scientific Is Scientific Essentialism?Muhammad Ali Khalidi - 2009 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 40 (1):85-101.
    Scientific essentialism holds that: (1) each scientific kind is associated with the same set of properties in every possible world; and (2) every individual member of a scientific kind belongs to that kind in every possible world in which it exists. Recently, Ellis (Scientific essentialism, 2001 ; The philosophy of nature 2002 ) has provided the most sustained defense of scientific essentialism, though he does not clearly distinguish these two claims. In this paper, I argue that both claims face a (...)
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  42. added 2017-01-15
    Bird and the Dispositional Essentialist Account of Spatiotemporal Relations.Vassilios Livanios - 2008 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 39 (2):383-394.
    The basic principles of dispositional essentialism do not require that the fundamental spatiotemporal relations are dispositional in nature. Nevertheless, Bird (who defends dispositional monism) argues that they possess dispositional essences in virtue of the fact that the obtaining of these relations can be characterised by the satisfaction of a certain counterfactual. In this paper I argue that his suggestion fails, and so, despite his attempt, the case of the spatiotemporal relations remains the ‘big bad bug’ for the thesis of dispositional (...)
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  43. added 2017-01-15
    The Philosophy of Nature: A Guide to the New Essentialism.Brian Ellis - 2002 - Routledge.
    In "The Philosophy of Nature," Brian Ellis provides a clear and forthright general summation of, and introduction to, the new essentialist position. Although the theory that the laws of nature are immanent in things, rather than imposed on them from without, is an ancient one, much recent work has been done to revive interest in essentialism and "The Philosophy of Nature" is a distinctive contribution to this lively current debate. Brian Ellis exposes the philosophical and scientific credentials of the prevailing (...)
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  44. added 2017-01-15
    Necessarily, Salt Dissolves in Water.A. Bird - 2001 - Analysis 61 (4):267-274.
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  45. added 2017-01-14
    The Metaphysical Necessity of Natural Laws.Quentin Smith - 2001 - Philosophica 67.
  46. added 2016-12-08
    How General is Generalized Scientific Essentialism?Erik Anderson - 2005 - Synthese 144 (3):373-379.
    I look at a recent argument offered in defense of a doctrine which I will call generalized scientific essentialism. This is the doctrine according to which, not only are some facts about substance composition metaphysically necessary, but, in addition, some facts about substance behavior are metaphysically necessary. More specifically, so goes the argument, not only is water necessarily composed of H2O and salt is necessarily composed of NaCl, but, in addition, salt necessarily dissolves in water. If this argument is sound, (...)
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  47. added 2016-12-08
    The Philosophy of Nature: A Guide to the New Essentialism.Brian Ellis - 2002 - Mcgill-Queen's University Press.
    For many years essentialism was considered beyond the pale in philosophy, a relic of discredited Aristotelianism. This is no longer so. Kripke and Putnam have made belief in essential natures respectable once more. Harré and Madden have argued against Hume's theory of causation and developed an alternative theory based on the assumption that there are genuine causal powers in nature. Dretske, Tooley, Armstrong, Swoyer, and Carroll have all developed strong alternatives to Hume's theory of the laws of nature. And Shoemaker (...)
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  48. added 2016-11-30
    Are Fundamental Laws Necessary or Contingent?Noa Latham - 2011 - In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O'Rourke & Matthew H. Slater (eds.), Carving Nature at its Joints: Natural Kinds in Metaphysics and Science. MIT Press. pp. 97-112.
    This chapter focuses on the dispute between necessitarians and contingentists, mainly addressing the issue as to whether laws of nature are metaphysically necessary or metaphysically contingent with a weaker kind of necessity, commonly referred to as natural, nomological, or nomic necessity. It is assumed here that all fundamental properties are dispositional or role properties, making the dispute a strictly verbal one. The existence of categorical intrinsic properties as well as dispositional properties is also assumed and the relationship between them examined. (...)
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  49. added 2016-11-30
    Laws of Nature: The Empiricist Challenge.John Earman - 1984 - In Radu J. Bogdan (ed.). Springer Verlag. pp. 191-223.
    Hume defined ‘cause’ three times over. The two principal definitions (constant conjunction, felt determination) provide the anchors for the two main strands of the modem empiricist accounts of laws of nature 1 while the third (the counter factual definition 2) may be seen as the inspiration of the nonHumean necessitarian analyses. Corresponding to the felt determination definition is the account of laws that emphasizes human attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Latter day weavers of this strand include Nelson Goodman, A. J. Ayer, (...)
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  50. added 2016-10-05
    Induction, Explanation, and Natural Necessity.John Foster - 1982 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 83:87-101.
    I want to examine a possible solution to the problem of induction-one which, as far as I know, has not been discussed elsewhere. The solution makes crucial use of the notion of objective natural necessity. For the purposes of this discussion, I shall assume that this notion is coherent. I am aware that this assumption is controversial, but I do not have space to examine the issue here.
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1 — 50 / 152