Nomological Necessity

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian J. Boge (Bergische Universität Wuppertal)
About this topic
Summary Some statements are not only true but necessarily true. The fact they state can not possibly be otherwise. Consider the necessary "My sister is a woman" versus the non-necessary (i.e., accidental or contingent) "I have a brother". There are, however, different kinds of necessity: a logical necessity, like "It is raining or it is not raining", has its source in the rules of logic; a conceptual necessity, like "Bachelors are unmarried men", is true in virtue of the meanings of the words of the statement; a metaphysical necessity, like "Water is H2O", is said to be necessarily true because it is the essence of water to be H2O. Nomological necessity, finally, is grounded in or grounds the laws of nature: "Increased heat at constant volume necessitates (or causes) higher pressure".  Some philosophers first give a theory of what laws of nature are and then can say on that basis that events happen with nomological necessity when they happen because of the laws. Other philosophers take nomological necessity to be basic and define law statements in terms of nomologically necessary relations in nature.
Key works The two most famous opposite views are those of Lewis for whom laws come first (Lewis 1973, especially pp. 73 onwards) and Armstrong, Dretske, Tooley, for whom nomological necessity is more basic Armstrong 1983Dretske 1977Tooley 1997.
Introductions Carroll 1994
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  1. added 2020-06-01
    The Governance of Laws of Nature: Guidance and Production.Tobias Wilsch - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-25.
    Realists about laws of nature and their Humean opponents disagree on whether laws ‘govern’. An independent commitment to the ‘governing conception’ of laws pushes many towards the realist camp. Despite its significance, however, no satisfactory account of governance has been offered. The goal of this article is to develop such an account. I base my account on two claims. First, we should distinguish two notions of governance, ‘guidance’ and ‘production’, and secondly, explanatory phenomena other than laws are also candidates for (...)
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  2. added 2020-04-20
    Determinism, Physical Possibility, and Laws of Nature.Balázs Gyenis - 2020 - Foundations of Physics 50 (6):568-581.
    We call attention to different formulations of how physical laws relate to what is physically possible in the philosophical literature, and argue that it may be the case that determinism fails under one formulation but reigns under the other. Whether this is so depends on our view on the nature of laws, and may also depend on the inter-theoretical relationships among our best physical theories, or so shall we argue.
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  3. 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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  4. added 2020-04-20
    Non‐Humean Theories of Natural Necessity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (5):1-1.
    Non‐Humean theories of natural necessity invoke modally‐laden primitives to explain why nature exhibits lawlike regularities. However, they vary in the primitives they posit and in their subsequent accounts of laws of nature and related phenomena (including natural properties, natural kinds, causation, counterfactuals, and the like). This article provides a taxonomy of non‐Humean theories, discusses influential arguments for and against them, and describes some ways in which differences in goals and methods can motivate different versions of non‐Humeanism (and, for that matter, (...)
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  5. added 2020-04-20
    The Immanent Contingency of Physical Laws in Leibniz’s Dynamics.Tzuchien Tho - 2019 - In Rodolfo Garau & Pietro Omodeo (eds.), Contingency and Natural Order in Early Modern Science. Springer Verlag.
    This paper focuses on Leibniz’s conception of modality and its application to the issue of natural laws. The core of Leibniz’s investigation of the modality of natural laws lays in the distinction between necessary, geometrical laws on the one hand, and contingent, physical laws of nature on the other. For Leibniz, the contingency of physical laws entailed the assumption of the existence of an additional form of causality beyond mechanical or efficient ones. While geometrical truths, being necessary, do not require (...)
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  6. 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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  7. added 2020-01-09
    Common Ground for Laws and Metaphysical Modality.Samuel Kimpton-Nye - 2018 - Dissertation, King's College London
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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. added 2019-12-14
    Humean Laws and (Nested) Counterfactuals.Christian Loew & Siegfried Jaag - 2020 - Philosophical Quarterly 70 (278):93-113.
    Humean reductionism about laws of nature is the view that the laws reduce to the total distribution of non-modal or categorical properties in spacetime. A worry about Humean reductionism is that it cannot motivate the characteristic modal resilience of laws under counterfactual suppositions and that it thus generates wrong verdicts about certain nested counterfactuals. In this paper, we defend Humean reductionism by motivating an account of the modal resilience of Humean laws that gets nested counterfactuals right.
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  11. added 2019-10-04
    What Humeans Should Say About Tied Best Systems.Christian Loew & Siegfried Jaag - 2020 - Analysis 80 (2):273-282.
    The Humean best systems account identifies laws of nature with the regularities in a system of truths that, as a whole, best conforms to scientific standards for theory-choice. A principled problem for the BSA is that it returns the wrong verdicts about laws in cases where multiple systems, containing different regularities, satisfy these standards equally well. This problem affects every version of the BSA because it arises regardless of which standards for theory-choice Humeans adopt. In this paper, we propose a (...)
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  12. added 2019-09-07
    Making Best Systems Best for Us.Siegfried Jaag & Christian Loew - 2018 - Synthese:1-26.
    Humean reductionism about laws of nature appears to leave a central aspect of scientific practice unmotivated: If the world’s fundamental structure is exhausted by the actual distribution of non-modal properties and the laws of nature are merely efficient summaries of this distribution, then why does science posit laws that cover a wide range of non-actual circumstances? In this paper, we develop a new version of the Humean best systems account of laws based on the idea that laws need to organize (...)
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  13. added 2019-09-07
    Dispositional Essentialism and the Grounding of Natural Modality.Siegfried Jaag - 2014 - Philosophers' Imprint 14.
    Dispositional essentialism is a non-Humean view about the essences of certain fundamental or natural properties that looms large in recent metaphysics , not least because it promises to explain neatly the natural modalities such as laws of nature, counterfactuals, causation and chance. In the current paper, however, several considerations are presented that indicate a serious tension between its essentialist core thesis and natural “metaphysical” interpretations of its central explanatory claims.
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  14. added 2019-07-22
    Causal Necessity: A Pragmatic Investigation of the Necessity of Laws. [REVIEW]B. M. - 1982 - Review of Metaphysics 35 (4):913-914.
    The basic thesis of Skyrms's book is that the nomic necessity of laws should be understood in terms of the ways in which laws are confirmed and applied rather than as some mysterious metaphysical or epistemological quality. Skyrms's account centers around the notions of resiliency, which is a measure of probabilistic invariance, and that of propensities, which he takes to be highly resilient probabilities that figure in laws of nature.
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  15. added 2019-06-07
    Stable Regularities Without Governing Laws?Aldo Filomeno - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 66:186-197.
    Can stable regularities be explained without appealing to governing laws or any other modal notion? In this paper, I consider what I will call a ‘Humean system’—a generic dynamical system without guiding laws—and assess whether it could display stable regularities. First, I present what can be interpreted as an account of the rise of stable regularities, following from Strevens [2003], which has been applied to explain the patterns of complex systems (such as those from meteorology and statistical mechanics). Second, since (...)
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  16. added 2019-06-06
    What is a Law of Nature? The Broken-Symmetry Story.Yuri Balashov - 2002 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (4):459-473.
    I argue that the contemporary interplay of cosmology and particle physics in their joint effort to understand the processes at work during the first moments of the big bang has important implications for understanding the nature of lawhood. I focus on the phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry breaking responsible for generating the masses of certain particles. This phenomenon presents problems for the currently fashionable Dretske-Tooley-Armstrong theory and strongly favors a rival nomic ontology of causal powers.
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  17. added 2019-06-06
    What is a Law of Nature? (D. M. Armstrong). [REVIEW]Steven Louis Goldman - 1987 - History of European Ideas 8 (1):97-97.
  18. added 2019-06-06
    XVI—Causal Necessity and Induction.Everett J. Nelson - 1963 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 64 (1):289-300.
  19. added 2019-06-05
    Book Review:What Is a Law of Nature? D. M. Armstrong.Peter Vallentyne - 1986 - Philosophy of Science 53 (1):154-156.
  20. added 2019-06-05
    Book Review:What Is a Law of Nature? D. M. Armstrong.James Woodward - 1985 - Ethics 95 (4):949-951.
  21. added 2019-05-17
    The Nature of Contingency: Quantum Physics as Modal Realism.Alastair Wilson - 2020 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    This book defends a radical new theory of contingency as a physical phenomenon. Drawing on the many-worlds approach, it argues that quantum theories are best understood as telling us about the space of genuine possibilities, rather than as telling us solely about actuality.
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  22. added 2019-02-01
    Potentiality: From Dispositions to Modality, by Barbara Vetter: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, Pp. Xii + 335, £45. [REVIEW]James M. Bucknell - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (1):207-208.
  23. added 2019-01-18
    Essence and the Inference Problem.Ashley Coates - forthcoming - Synthese:1-17.
    Discussions about the nature of essence and about the inference problem for non-Humean theories of nomic modality have largely proceeded independently of each other. In this article I argue that the right conclusions to draw about the inference problem actually depend significantly on how best to understand the nature of essence. In particular, I argue that this conclusion holds for the version of the inference problem developed and defended by Alexander Bird. I argue that Bird’s own argument that this problem (...)
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  24. added 2019-01-15
    Epistemic Structural Realism, Modality and Laws of Nature.Bruno Borge - 2018 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 33 (3):447-468.
    According to epistemic structural realism scientific theories provide us only with knowledge about the structure of the unobservable world, but not about its nature. The most significant objection that this posi- tion has faced is the so-called Newman’s problem. In this paper I offer an alternative objection to EER. I argue that its formulation leads to undesirable skeptical positions in two fields close to scientific realism: the debates on modality and laws of nature. I also show that there is an (...)
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  25. added 2018-11-15
    The Applicability of Mathematics to Physical Modality.Nora Berenstain - 2017 - Synthese 194 (9):3361-3377.
    This paper argues that scientific realism commits us to a metaphysical determination relation between the mathematical entities that are indispensible to scientific explanation and the modal structure of the empirical phenomena those entities explain. The argument presupposes that scientific realism commits us to the indispensability argument. The viewpresented here is that the indispensability of mathematics commits us not only to the existence of mathematical structures and entities but to a metaphysical determination relation between those entities and the modal structure of (...)
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  26. added 2018-08-06
    Kant’s Response to Hume in the Second Analogy: A Critique of Gerd Buchdahl’s and Michael Friedman’s Accounts.Saniye Vatansever - 2018 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 8 (2):310–346.
    This article presents a critical analysis of two influential readings of Kant’s Second Analogy, namely, Gerd Buchdahl’s “modest reading” and Michael Friedman’s “strong reading.” After pointing out the textual and philosophical problems with each, I advance an alternative reading of the Second Analogy argument. On my reading, the Second Analogy argument proves the existence of necessary and strictly universal causal laws. This, however, does not guarantee that Kant has a solution for the problem of induction. After I explain why the (...)
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  27. added 2018-08-06
    The Problem of Grounding Natural Modality in Kant's Account of Empirical Laws of Nature.Kristina Engelhard - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 71:24-34.
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  28. added 2018-06-08
    Is Causal Necessity Part of the Mind-Independent World?David Robb - 1999 - Philosophical Topics 26 (1-2):305-320.
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  29. added 2018-02-17
    Two Kinds of Possibility.Dorothy Edgington - 2004 - Supplement to the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 78 (1):1-22.
    I defend a version of Kripke's claim that the metaphysically necessary and the knowable a priori are independent. On my version, there are two independent families of modal notions, metaphysical and epistemic, neither stronger than the other. Metaphysical possibility is constrained by the laws of nature. Logical validity, I suggest, is best understood in terms of epistemic necessity.
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  30. added 2018-01-08
    Genuine Violations of Laws.Tobias Wilsch - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-16.
    Could laws of nature be violated, in the sense that some proposition is both a law and false? I argue that opponents of regularity theories of laws should accept the metaphysical possibility of such genuine violations. I begin with a clarification of this claim. The main argument is then developed in three steps. I first argue that opponents of regularity theory should endorse the modal-essence view: certain modal principles are essential to the laws of nature. Second, I argue that the (...)
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  31. added 2017-11-02
    Metaphysics of the Principle of Least Action.Vladislav Terekhovich - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 62:189-201.
    Despite the importance of the variational principles of physics, there have been relatively few attempts to consider them for a realistic framework. In addition to the old teleological question, this paper continues the recent discussion regarding the modal involvement of the principle of least action and its relations with the Humean view of the laws of nature. The reality of possible paths in the principle of least action is examined from the perspectives of the contemporary metaphysics of modality and Leibniz's (...)
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  32. added 2017-10-16
    The Space of Possibilities of Dispositional Essentialism.Xavi Lanao - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (11):2813-2839.
    How we define the space of possibilities of dispositional essentialism —that is, the set of possible worlds that are genuinely possible from the point of view of DE—has important consequences for central modal debates such as how to understand the concept of essence or the relation between DE and the necessity of laws of nature. In order to define DE’s space of possibilities we need to explore DE’s consequences regarding both necessity and possibility. Unfortunately, the notion of possibility has not (...)
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  33. added 2017-10-16
    Kant on the Laws of Nature: Laws, Necessitation, and the Limitation of Our Knowledge.James Kreines - 2009 - European Journal of Philosophy 17 (4):527-558.
    Consider the laws of nature—the laws of physics, for example. One familiar philosophical question about laws is this: what is it to be a law of nature? More specifically, is a law of nature a regularity, or a generalization stating a regularity? Or is it something else? Another philosophical question is: how, and to what extent, can we have knowledge of the laws of nature? I am interested here in Kant's answers to these questions, and their place within his broader (...)
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  34. added 2017-10-16
    The Inaugural Address: Two Kinds of Possibility.Dorothy Edgington - 2004 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes( 78:1-22.
    I defend a version of Kripke's claim that the metaphysically necessary and the knowable a priori are independent. On my version, there are two independent families of modal notions, metaphysical and epistemic, neither stronger than the other. Metaphysical possibility is constrained by the laws of nature. Logical validity, I suggest, is best understood in terms of epistemic necessity.
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  35. added 2017-08-30
    Atomism and Natural Necessity: A Reconsideration.Andrew Pyle - 2006 - Philo 9 (1):47-61.
    When the atomic theory was revived in the seventeenth century, the atomists faced a problem concerning the status of the laws of nature. On the face of it, the postulation of absolutely hard, rigid, and impenetrable atoms seems to entail the existence of natural necessities and impossibilities: Atoms A and B cannot interpenetrate, so atom A must push atom B when they collide. The properties of compound bodies are to be explained in terms of their “textures” on the famous lock-and-key (...)
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  36. added 2017-08-30
    Nomological Necessity.Del Ratzsch - 1987 - Faith and Philosophy 4 (4):383-402.
    The issues of just what laws of nature are and what makes statements law-like have been more discussed than advanced. After exploring the general area and uncovering some difficulties which, I suspect, make the case even knottier than generally imagined, I argue that certain resources available only to the theist---in particular, counterfactuals of God’s freedom---may provide the materials needed for constructing solutions.
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  37. added 2017-08-30
    Natural Necessity and Induction.P. J. R. Millican - 1986 - Philosophy 61 (237):395 - 403.
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  38. 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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  39. added 2017-07-06
    Explanation and Necessity.Albert Hofstadter - 1950 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 11 (3):339-347.
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  40. added 2017-07-03
    The Impossibility of Natural Necessity.David Oderberg - unknown
    I build a case for the impossibility of natural necessity as anything other than a species of metaphysical necessity – the necessity obtaining in virtue of the essences of natural objects. Aristotelian necessitarianism about the laws of nature is clarified and defended. I contrast it with E.J. Lowe’s contingentism about the laws. I examine Lowe’s solution to the circularity/triviality problem besetting natural necessity understood as relative necessity. Lowe’s way out is subject to serious problems unless it is given an essentialist (...)
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  41. added 2017-06-02
    Lawful Mimickers.Umut Baysan - 2017 - Analysis 77 (3):488-494.
    The nomic view of dispositions holds that properties confer dispositions on their bearers with nomological necessity. The argument against nomic dispositions challenges the nomic view: if the nomic view is true, then objects don't have dispositions, but 'mimic' them. This paper presents an explication of disposition conferral which shows that the nomic view is not vulnerable to this objection.
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  42. added 2017-04-28
    FISK, M: "Nature and Necessity". [REVIEW]John Post - 1978 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 29:189.
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  43. added 2017-03-29
    6.” There Sweep Great General Principles Which All the Laws Seem to Follow.Marc Lange - 2012 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 7:154.
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  44. added 2017-03-29
    Natural Laws, Modality and Universals.José Tomás Alvarado Marambio - 2010 - Epistemologia 33:207-234.
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  45. added 2017-02-20
    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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  46. added 2017-02-12
    Positive Law and Natural Law. Views of the Natural Law on Necessity and the Nature of Determination.Sebastian Contreras - 2013 - Kriterion: Journal of Philosophy 54 (127):43-61.
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  47. added 2017-02-09
    Human Agency and Natural Necessity.Antony Flew - 1991 - Philosophy Now 1:12-13.
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  48. added 2017-01-23
    Potentiality: From Dispositions to Modality, by Barbara Vetter. [REVIEW]Gabriele Contessa - 2016 - Mind 125 (500):1236-1244.
    Potentiality: From Dispositions to Modality, by VetterBarbara. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. ix + 335.
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  49. added 2017-01-23
    The Two Definitions and the Doctrine of Necessity.Helen Beebee - 2007 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 107 (1pt3):413-431.
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  50. added 2017-01-23
    The Metaphysical Necessity of Natural Laws.Quentin Smith - 2001 - Philosophica 67.
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