Necessitarianism about Laws

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian Boge (University of Cologne, University of Düsseldorf)
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. 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 (...)
  2. 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, (...)
  3. 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 (...)
  4. Comment on Ellis.D. M. Armstrong - 1999 - In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 35--38.
  5. How Do Particulars Stand to Universals?David M. Armstrong - 2007 - In Dean W. Zimmerman (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. Oxford University Press.
  6. Alexander Bird, Philosophy of Science.M. X. Ashooh - 2000 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 14 (1):83-85.
  7. The Ultimate Argument Against Dispositional Monist Accounts of Laws.S. Barker & B. Smart - 2012 - Analysis 72 (4):714-722.
    Alexander Bird argues that David Armstrong’s necessitarian conception of physical modality and laws of nature generates a vicious regress with respect to necessitation. We show that precisely the same regress afflicts Bird’s dispositional-monist theory, and indeed, related views, such as that of Mumford and Anjum. We argue that dispositional monism is basically Armstrongian necessitarianism modified to allow for a thesis about property identity.
  8. The Emperor's New Metaphysics of Powers.Stephen Barker - 2013 - Mind 112 (487):605-653.
    This paper argues that the new metaphysics of powers, also known as dispositional essentialism or causal structuralism, is an illusory metaphysics. I argue for this in the following way. I begin by distinguishing three fundamental ways of seeing how facts of physical modality — facts about physical necessitation and possibility, causation, disposition, and chance — are grounded in the world. The first way, call it the first degree, is that the actual world or all worlds, in their entirety, are the (...)
  9. John Foster the Divine Lawmaker.Helen Beebee - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (2):453-457.
  10. Review: Ellis, Scientific Essentialism; The Philosophy of Nature. [REVIEW]Helen Beebee - 2004 - Mind 113 (450).
  11. Contingent Laws Rule: Reply to Bird.Helen Beebee - 2002 - Analysis 62 (3):252–255.
  12. Necessary Laws and Chemical Kinds.Nora Berenstain - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (4):631-647.
    Contingentism, generally contrasted with law necessitarianism, is the view that the laws of nature are contingent. It is often coupled with the claim that their contingency is knowable a priori. This paper considers Bird's [2001, 2002, 2005, 2007] arguments for the thesis that, necessarily, salt dissolves in water; and it defends his view against Beebee's [2001] and Psillos's [2002] contingentist objections. A new contingentist objection is offered and several reasons for scepticism about its success are raised. It is concluded that (...)
  13. God Might Be Responsible for Physical Evil.Michael Bertrand - 2009 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (3):513 – 515.
    Alexander Bird has a two-part argument to the effect that God could only have created a world without physical evil by changing either the laws or the initial conditions of the universe, and that no such world would be at all like ours: so God is not responsible for physical evil. I argue that both parts of his argument fail.
  14. Scientific Ellisianism.John Bigelow - 1999 - In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 45--59.
  15. The World as One of a Kind: Natural Necessity and Laws of Nature.John Bigelow, Brian Ellis & Caroline Lierse - 1992 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43 (3):371-388.
  16. 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 (...)
  17. Necessarily, Salt Dissolves in Water.A. Bird - 2001 - Analysis 61 (4):267-274.
  18. Lange and Laws, Kinds, and Counterfactuals.Alexander Bird - 2011 - In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O'Rourke & Matthew H. Slater (eds.), Carving Nature at its Joints. MIT Press.
    In this paper I examine and question Marc Lange’s account of laws, and his claim that the law delineating the range of natural kinds of fundamental particle has a lesser grade of necessity that the laws connecting the fundamental properties of those kinds with their derived properties.
  19. Review of Alexander Bird, Nature's Metaphysics: Laws and Properties[REVIEW]Alexander Bird - 2008 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (6).
    This is a rewarding book. In terms of area, it has one foot firmly planted in metaphysics and the other just as firmly set in the philosophy of science. Nature's Metaphysics is distinctive for its thorough and detailed defense of fundamental, natural properties as essentially dispositional and for its description of how these dispositional properties are thus suited to sustain the laws of nature as (metaphysically) necessary truths.
  20. Unexpected a Posteriori Necessary Laws of Nature.Alexander Bird - 2005 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (4):533 – 548.
    In this paper I argue that it is not a priori that all the laws of nature are contingent. I assume that the fundamental laws are contingent and show that some non-trivial, a posteriori, non-basic laws may nonetheless be necessary in the sense of having no counterinstances in any possible world. I consider a law LS (such as 'salt dissolves in water') that concerns a substance S. Kripke's arguments concerning constitution show that the existence of S requires that a certain (...)
  21. Laws and Essences.Alexander Bird - 2005 - Ratio 18 (4):437–461.
    Those who favour an ontology based on dispositions are thereby able to provide a dispositional essentialist account of the laws of nature. In part 1 of this paper I sketch the dispositional essentialist conception of properties and the concomitant account of laws. In part 2, I characterise various claims about the modal character of properties that fall under the heading ‘quidditism’ and which are consequences of the categoricalist view of properties, which is the alternative to the dispositional essentialist view. I (...)
  22. The Ultimate Argument Against Armstrong's Contingent Necessitation View of Laws.Alexander Bird - 2005 - Analysis 65 (286):147-55.
    I show that Armstrong’s view of laws as second-order contingent relations of ‘necessitation’ among categorical properties faces a dilemma. The necessitation relation confers a relation of extensional inclusion (‘constant conjunction’) on its relata. It does so either necessarily or contingently. If necessarily, it is not a categorical relation (in the relevant sense). If contingently, then an explanation is required of how it confers extensional inclusion. That explanation will need to appeal to a third-order relation between necessitation and extensional inclusion. The (...)
  23. Strong Necessitarianism: The Nomological Identity of Possible Worlds.Alexander Bird - 2004 - Ratio 17 (3):256–276.
    Dispositional essentialism, a plausible view about the natures of (sparse or natural) properties, yields a satisfying explanation of the nature of laws also. The resulting necessitarian conception of laws comes in a weaker version, which allows differences between possible worlds as regards which laws hold in those worlds and a stronger version that does not. The main aim of this paper is to articulate what is involved in accepting the stronger version, most especially the consequence that all possible properties exist (...)
  24. On Whether Some Laws Are Necessary.Alexander Bird - 2002 - Analysis 62 (3):257–270.
    In 'Necessarily, salt dissolves in water' (Analysis 61 (2001)), I argued that because the laws required for the existence of salt entail the laws that ensure dissolving in water, there is no possible world in which salt exists but fails to dissolve in water. In this paper I respond to criticisms from Helen Beebee and Stathis Psillos (Analysis 62 (2002)). I also introduce the 'down-and-up' structure, generalising the case. Whether or not this structure is instantiated is a matter for a (...)
  25. Necessarily, Salt Dissolves in Water.Alexander Bird - 2001 - Analysis 61 (4):267–274.
    In this paper I aim to show that a certain law of nature, namely that common salt (sodium chloride) dissolves in water, is metaphysically necessary. The importance of this result is that it conflicts with a widely shared intuition that the laws of nature (most if not all) are contingent. There have been debates over whether some laws, such as Newton’s second law, might be definitional of their key terms and hence necessary. But the law that salt dissolves in water (...)
  26. Havelock Ellis.Paul Bloomfield - 1959 - The Eugenics Review 51 (3):145.
  27. Nature's Metaphysics: Laws and Properties (by Alexander Bird). [REVIEW]Simon Bostock - 2010 - Philosophy 85 (1):152-157.
  28. Nomic Inversion And The Contingency Of Laws.Simon Bostock - 2005 - Philosophical Writings 30 (3).
    According to the Contingency Theory of Laws, if there are possible worlds in which it is a law that all Fs are G, there are also possible F-containing worlds in which it is not. I argue here that the theory is forced to accept the possibility of nomic inversion: i.e. pairs of properties that have their actual nomic roles swapped in some possible world. Such inversions cannot be ruled out on grounds of logical or metaphysical inconsistency, and therefore – since (...)
  29. Are All Possible Laws Actual Laws?Simon Bostock - 2003 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (4):517 – 533.
    Suppose it is a law that all Fs are G. Does the law hold in all possible worlds? According to Necessitarianism, it holds in at least all those worlds containing F-ness. I argue that the Necessitarian must also take the law to hold in all those possible worlds which do not contain F-ness. Accepting the principle that a law can only hold in a world if it has some ontological grounding in that world, I argue that Necessitarianism is committed to (...)
  30. The Necessity of Natural Laws.Simon Bostock - 2001 - Dissertation, University of Sheffield
    I argue that the best explanation of law-like regularity is that properties are universals and that universals are irreducibly dispositional entities.
  31. The Contingency of the Laws of Nature.Emile Boutroux & Fred Rothwell - 1916 - Open Court.
  32. The Contingency of the Laws of Nature, Authorized Tr. By F. Rothwell.Étienne Émile M. Boutroux & Fred Rothwell - 1916 -
  33. Functionalism and The Independence Problems.Darren Bradley - 2013 - Noûs 47 (1):545-557.
    The independence problems for functionalism stem from the worry that if functional properties are defined in terms of their causes and effects then such functional properties seem to be too intimately connected to these purported causes and effects. I distinguish three different ways the independence problems can be filled out – in terms of necessary connections, analytic connections and vacuous explanations. I argue that none of these present serious problems. Instead, they bring out some important and over-looked features of functionalism.
  34. Dispositional Statements.Arthur W. Burks - 1955 - Philosophy of Science 22 (3):175-193.
  35. Ellis, Roger, Ed. 'My Compleinte' and Other Poems. [REVIEW]Michael Calabrese - 2002 - The Medieval Review 9.
  36. Review of Alexander Bird, Nature's Metaphysics. [REVIEW]J. W. Carroll - forthcoming - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
  37. Ontology and the Laws of Nature.John W. Carroll - 1987 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 65 (3):261 – 276.
    An argument for realism (i.E., The ontological thesis that there exist universals) has emerged in the writings of david armstrong, Fred dretske, And michael tooley. These authors have persuasively argued against traditional reductive accounts of laws and nature. The failure of traditional reductive accounts leads all three authors to opt for a non-Traditional reductive account of laws which requires the existence of universals. In other words, These authors have opted for accounts of laws which (together with the fact that there (...)
  38. On Induction: Time-Limited Necessity Vs. Timeless Necessity.Eduardo Castro - 2013 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 33 (3):67-82.
    Abstract: This paper defends David Armstrong’s solution to the problem of inductionb against Helen Beebee’s attack on that solution. To solve theproblem of induction, Armstrong contends that the timeless necessity explanation is the best explanation of our observed regularities, whereas Beebee attempts to demonstrate that the time-limited necessity explanation is an equally good explanation. Allegedly, this explanation blocks Armstrong’s solution. I demonstrate that even if the time-limited ecessity explanation were an equally good explanation of our observed regularities, this explanation does (...)
  39. The Dispositional Essentialist View of Properties and Laws.Anjan Chakravartty - 2003 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 11 (4):393 – 413.
    One view of the nature of properties has been crystallized in recent debate by an identity thesis proposed by Shoemaker. The general idea is that there is for behaviour. Well-known criticisms of this approach, however, remain unanswered, and the details of its connections to laws nothing more to being a particular causal property than conferring certain dispositions of nature and the precise ontology of causal properties stand in need of development. This paper examines and defends a dispositional essentialist account of (...)
  40. Contra a Necessidade Metafísica da Lei "O Sal Se Dissolve Em Água".Rodrigo Cid - 2010 - Abstracta 6 (1):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 (...)
  41. Scientific Essentialism.L. Clapp - 2002 - Philosophical Review 111 (4):589-594.
    Scientific Essentialism defends the view that the fundamental laws of nature depend on the essential properties of the things on which they are said to operate, and are therefore not independent of them. These laws are not imposed upon the world by God, the forces of nature, or anything else, but rather are immanent in the world. Ellis argues that ours is a dynamic world consisting of more or less transient objects that are constantly interacting with each other, and whose (...)
  42. Laws of Nature.Carol E. Cleland - 1995 - Review of Metaphysics 49 (2):406-408.
  43. God and the Laws of Nature.Robin Collins - 2009 - Philo 12 (2):142-171.
    This paper argues that theism and related axiarchic hypotheses provide the only promising solution to the problems of cosmic coincidence and induction raised by necessitarians against the regularity view of the laws of nature. Hence, it is argued, the fundamental order of the world provides significant support for theism and these related hypotheses.
  44. Can Dispositional Essences Ground the Laws of Nature?Richard Corry - 2011 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (2):263 - 275.
    A dispositional property is a tendency, or potency, to manifest some characteristic behaviour in some appropriate context. The mainstream view in the twentieth century was that such properties are to be explained in terms of more fundamental non-dispositional properties, together with the laws of nature. In the last few decades, however, a rival view has become popular, according to which some properties are essentially dispositional in nature, and the laws of nature are to be explained in terms of these fundamental (...)
  45. Mackie on Dispositional Properties.J. W. Roxbee Cox - 1975 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 26 (3):232-234.
  46. Satiety-Dependent Microbehavior in Water Ingestion by the Rat: The Effects of Salt and Water Preloads on Response Duration.Lowell T. Crow, Bill G. Coop & Linda L. Carlock - 1977 - Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 9 (5):349-352.
  47. Havelock Ellis, Eugenicist.Ivan Crozier - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 39 (2):187-194.
    This article examines the contributions made towards eugenic thought in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Havelock Ellis . Ellis was a significant social reformer who worked on the problems of sexuality from a scientific–naturalist secular perspective. In the later phases of his work, after he had completed much of his writing on sexuality, Ellis concentrated on issues of feminism and eugenics—problems he thought were interlinked. In this paper, I integrate his ideas about these subjects, and consider the (...)
  48. Social Humanism A New Metaphysics, by Ellis, Brian.Geoffrey Cupit - 2014 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (2):411-412.
  49. Debating Dispositions. Issues in Metaphysics, Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind.Gregor Damschen, Robert Schnepf & Karsten Stueber (eds.) - 2009 - de Gruyter.
    The contributions of this volume analyze the ancient foundations of the discussion about disposition, examine the problem of disposition within the context of ...
  50. Comments on Lierse.Armstrong David - 1996 - In P. Riggs (ed.), Natural Kinds, Laws of Nature and Scientific Methodology. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 227.
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