Special Science Laws

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian Boge (University of Cologne, University of Düsseldorf)
About this topic
Summary Early accounts of what a law of nature is were somewhat guided by a reductionist credo: say what it is to be a fundamental law of nature (as in fundamental physics); all the other laws (and scientific theories) follow from these basic laws anyway so that no special theory for what it is to be a law of chemistry or biology or... has to be given. In recent decades this attitude has changed and accounts of laws in the special sciences (and whether there are such) come into focus which are downright independent of reductionist attitudes. These laws have their own features and, thus, face their very own challenges: for example, they might be about entities that have a very limited space-time habitat (think of biology). Also, many special sciences regularities face exceptions: ravens are black, except for albino ravens. Thus, the topic of special science laws and the topic of ceteris paribus laws are closely related: see philpapers leaf section on cp laws. 
Key works The orthodox starting points for this subject are: Fodor 1974Lange 2000.
Introductions Tobin web
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138 found
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  1. The Reductionist Blind Spot.Russ Abbott - 2009 - Complexity 14 (5):10-22.
    Can there be higher level laws of nature even though everything is reducible to the fundamental laws of physics? The computer science notion of level of abstraction explains how there can be.
  2. Better Best Systems – Too Good To Be True.Marius Backmann & Alexander Reutlinger - 2014 - Dialectica 68 (3):375-390.
    Craig Callender, Jonathan Cohen and Markus Schrenk have recently argued for an amended version of the best system account of laws – the better best system account (BBSA). This account of lawhood is supposed to account for laws in the special sciences, among other desiderata. Unlike David Lewis's original best system account of laws, the BBSA does not rely on a privileged class of natural predicates, in terms of which the best system is formulated. According to the BBSA, a contingently (...)
  3. Symposium: Are There Laws in Biology?John Beatty, Robert Brandon, Elliott Sober & Sandra D. Mitchell - 1997 - Philosophy of Science 64 (4):S432 - S479.
  4. Supple Laws in Biology and Psychology.M. A. Bedau - 1999 - In V. Harcastle (ed.), Where Biology Meets Psychology. pp. 287--302.
  5. Supple Laws in Psychology and Biology.Mark Bedau - manuscript -
    The nature and status of psychological laws are a long-standing controversy. I will argue that part of the controversy stems from the distinctive nature of an important subset of those laws, which I’ll call “supple laws.” An emergent-model strategy taken by the new interdisciplinary field of artificial life provides a strikingly successful understanding of analogously supple laws in biology. So, after reviewing the failures of the two evident strategies for understanding supple psychological laws, I’ll turn for inspiration to emergent-models explanations (...)
  6. Is the Case for Social Science Laws Strengthening?Clive Beed & Cara Beed - 2000 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 30 (2):131–153.
  7. „Cutler on Laws of Tendency“.Ted Benton - 1981 - Radical Philosophy 27:33-35.
    Cutler et.al. declare themselves opposed to the epistemological privileging of any level of discourse, but prefer, instead, to engage in discursive analyses of specific problems. Nevertheless, their critique of specific laws of tendency in Marx's texts - concentratlon and centralisation of capital, the falling rate of profit, etc. - relies almost exclusively on a single epistemological argument: there can be no such 'thing' as a law of tendency.
  8. Ontic Structural Realism and Modality.Nora Berenstain & James Ladyman - 2012 - In Elaine Landry & Dean Rickles (eds.), Structural Realism: Structure, Object, and Causality. Springer.
    There is good reason to believe that scientific realism requires a commitment to the objective modal structure of the physical world. Causality, equilibrium, laws of nature, and probability all feature prominently in scientific theory and explanation, and each one is a modal notion. If we are committed to the content of our best scientific theories, we must accept the modal nature of the physical world. But what does the scientific realist’s commitment to physical modality require? We consider whether scientific realism (...)
  9. Laws in Biology.Réjane Bernier - 1983 - Acta Biotheoretica 32 (4):265-288.
    In the first part of my analysis, I wish briefly to clarify the different modes of relation found in the living being, and point out the multiplicity of disciplines in which biologists use (explicitly or implicitly) the notion of laws. In the second part, I shall analyse the notion of universal laws in biology and examine successively: (1) accidental generalizations; (2) non-causal biological correlations; (3) the meaning of 'necessity' in these correlations; and (4) causal connections. Finally, in the third part, (...)
  10. On the Problem of Laws in Nature and History: A Comparison.Stephan Berry - 1999 - History and Theory 38 (4):122–137.
    In the philosophy of science there has traditionally been a tendency to regard physics as the incarnation of science per se. Accordingly, the status of other disciplines is evaluated then with respect to their ability to produce laws resembling those of physics. This view has yielded a considerable bias in the discussion of historical laws. Philosophers as well as historians have tended to discuss such laws mostly with reference to the situation in physics; this often led to either one of (...)
  11. Deskriptions- Und Interpretationsprobleme Beim Psychologischen Erklären.Hans-Georg Bosshardt - 1984 - Analyse & Kritik 6 (2):160-189.
    In this paper, the descriptive information contained in empirical laws is contrasted with common-sense descriptions of situations and behavior. According to the Hempel-Oppenheim-Schema, explanation is, essentially conceived as a matter of deductive reasoning in which the fact to be explained is subsumed under one empirically valid generalizations or laws. However, this kind of explanation is necessarily based on intuitive processes of diagnosis and interpretation. It is argued that these intuitive processes enable the scientist to formulate descriptive sentences which form the (...)
  12. The Nature of Social Laws: Machiavelli to Mill.Robert Brown - 1984 - Cambridge University Press.
    This volume is a study of the development of the idea that human social behaviour is governed by laws comparable to the laws of natural science. The author sets out to provide a clear account of the arguments put forward from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries about the nature and possibility of social laws. Although analytical rather than historical in approach, the discussions are always informed by a knowledge of the relevant context and sufficient detail is provided to characterise (...)
  13. Place and the Function of Philosophy and Special Sciences in Contemporary-World.M. Buhr - 1979 - Filosoficky Casopis 27 (1):1-6.
  14. The Laws of Association.H. A. Carr - 1931 - Psychological Review 38 (3):212-228.
  15. In Defense of Psychological Laws.Martin Carrier - 1998 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 12 (3):217 – 232.
    Abstract It is argued that psychological explanations involve psychological generalizations that exhibit the same features as laws of physics. On the basis of the ?systematic theory of lawhood?, characteristic features of laws of nature are elaborated. Investigating some examples of explanations taken from cognitive psychology shows that these features can also be identified in psychological generalizations. Particular attention is devoted to the notion of ?ccteris?paribus laws?. It is argued that laws of psychology are indeed ceteris?paribus laws. However, this feature does (...)
  16. Evolutionary Change and Lawlikeness : Beatty on Biological Generalizations.Martin Carrier - unknown -
  17. Natural Laws in Scientific Practice by Marc Lange.John W. Carroll - 2005 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71 (1):240-245.
  18. Models: The Blueprints for Laws.Nancy Cartwright - 1997 - Philosophy of Science 64 (4):303.
    In this paper the claim that laws of nature are to be understood as claims about what necessarily or reliably happens is disputed. Laws can characterize what happens in a reliable way, but they do not do this easily. We do not have laws for everything occurring in the world, but only for those situations where what happens in nature is represented by a model: models are blueprints for nomological machines, which in turn give rise to laws. An example from (...)
  19. Criticisms of the Laws of Exercise and Effect.H. Cason - 1924 - Psychological Review 31 (5):397-417.
  20. Making Sense of Laws of Physics.Alan Chalmers - 1999 - In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 3--16.
  21. Chemists Versus Philosophers Regarding Laws of Nature.Maureen Christie - 1994 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 25:613-629.
    The law of definite proportion and the law of multiple proportions are two of the important laws of chemistry associated with the development of the atomic theory in the early nineteenth century. A detailed study of these laws shows that they have characters which cannot be reconciled with philosophers’ accounts of laws of nature. They are non-universal, and one of them is imprecise. Philosophers have approached an account of laws of nature by trying to fit their character to a particular (...)
  22. Philosophers Versus Chemists Concerning 'Laws of Nature'.Maureen Christie - 1994 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 25 (4):613-629.
  23. How to Define Levels of Explanation and Evaluate Their Indispensability.Christopher Clarke - forthcoming - Synthese:1-21.
    Some explanations in social science, psychology and biology belong to a higher level than other explanations. And higher explanations possess the virtue of abstracting away from the details of lower explanations, many philosophers argue. As a result, these higher explanations are irreplaceable. And this suggests that there are genuine higher laws or patterns involving social, psychological and biological states. I show that this ‘abstractness argument’ is really an argument schema, not a single argument. This is because the argument uses the (...)
  24. Special Sciences, Conspiracy and the Better Best System Account of Lawhood.Jonathan Cohen & Craig Callender - 2010 - Erkenntnis 73 (3):427 - 447.
    An important obstacle to lawhood in the special sciences is the worry that such laws would require metaphysically extravagant conspiracies among fundamental particles. How, short of conspiracy, is this possible? In this paper we'll review a number of strategies that allow for the projectibility of special science generalizations without positing outlandish conspiracies: non-Humean pluralism, classical MRL theories of laws, and Albert and Loewer's theory. After arguing that none of the above fully succeed, we consider the conspiracy problem through the lens (...)
  25. A Better Best System Account of Lawhood.Jonathan Cohen & Craig Callender - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 145 (1):1 - 34.
    Perhaps the most significant contemporary theory of lawhood is the Best System (/MRL) view on which laws are true generalizations that best systematize knowledge. Our question in this paper will be how best to formulate a theory of this kind. We’ll argue that an acceptable MRL should (i) avoid inter-system comparisons of simplicity, strength, and balance, (ii) make lawhood epistemically accessible, and (iii) allow for laws in the special sciences. Attention to these problems will bring into focus a useful menu (...)
  26. Timeless Laws in a Changing World: Reconciling Physics and Biology.John D. Collier - unknown -
    A major goal of science is to discover laws that underlie all regular phenomena. This goal is best satisfied by eternal principles that leave fundamental properties unchanged and unchangeable. Science has been forced to accept that some processes, especially biological processes, are inherently time oriented. It can either forgo the ideal of universal principles, and account for temporality through specific boundary conditions, or else incorporate the sources of change directly into fundamental principles that are the same for all times and (...)
  27. Laws and Natural History in Biology.Wim J. Der Steen & Harmke Kamminga - 1991 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 42 (4).
  28. How Momental Laws Can Be Developed in Sociology by Deducing Testable and Predictive “Actance” Models From Transacts.Stuart C. Dodd - 1962 - Synthese 14 (4):277-299.
  29. How Momental Laws Can Be Developed in Sociology.Stuart C. Dodd - 1962 - Synthese 14 (4):277 - 299.
    This paper develops a synthesis of three basic societal dimensions. These three qualify as basic dimensions by virtue of being collectively inclusive, mutually exclusive to a higher degree than any alternative dimensions we have explored, and universally applicable, i.e., to all social situations. We take the six transact dimensions to be such a set. Of these six we here develop a synthesis of three (acts, people, and time) which we take to be most basic, not in the sense of relative (...)
  30. The Laws of Relative Fatigue.Raymond Dodge - 1917 - Psychological Review 24 (2):89-113.
  31. Mathematical Biology and the Existence of Biological Laws.Mauro Dorato - 2012 - In D. Dieks, S. Hartmann, T. Uebel & M. Weber (eds.), Probabilities, Laws and Structure. Springer.
    An influential position in the philosophy of biology claims that there are no biological laws, since any apparently biological generalization is either too accidental, fact-like or contingent to be named a law, or is simply reducible to physical laws that regulate electrical and chemical interactions taking place between merely physical systems. In the following I will stress a neglected aspect of the debate that emerges directly from the growing importance of mathematical models of biological phenomena. My main aim is to (...)
  32. Fried Eggs, Thermodynamics, and the Special Sciences.Jeffrey Dunn - 2011 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (1):71-98.
    David Lewis ([1986b]) gives an attractive and familiar account of counterfactual dependence in the standard context. This account has recently been subject to a counterexample from Adam Elga ([2000]). In this article, I formulate a Lewisian response to Elga’s counterexample. The strategy is to add an extra criterion to Lewis’s similarity metric, which determines the comparative similarity of worlds. This extra criterion instructs us to take special science laws into consideration as well as fundamental laws. I argue that the Second (...)
  33. "Ceteris Paribus", There Is No Problem of Provisos.John Earman & John Roberts - 1999 - Synthese 118 (3):439 - 478.
    Much of the literature on "ceteris paribus" laws is based on a misguided egalitarianism about the sciences. For example, it is commonly held that the special sciences are riddled with ceteris paribus laws; from this many commentators conclude that if the special sciences are not to be accorded a second class status, it must be ceteris paribus all the way down to fundamental physics. We argue that the (purported) laws of fundamental physics are not hedged by ceteris paribus clauses and (...)
  34. The Problem of Harmonizing Laws.Crawford L. Elder - 2001 - Philosophical Studies 105 (1):25 - 41.
    More laws obtain in the world,it appears, than just those of microphysics –e.g. laws of genetics, perceptual psychology,economics. This paper assumes there indeedare laws in the special sciences, and notjust scrambled versions of microphysical laws. Yet the objects which obey them are composedwholly of microparticles. How can themicroparticles in such an object lawfully domore than what is required of them by the lawsof microphysics? Are there additional laws formicroparticles – which seems to violate closureof microphysics – or is the ``more'' (...)
  35. Biology and a Priori Laws.Mehmet Elgin - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1380--1389.
    In this paper, I investigate the nature of a priori biological laws in connection with the idea that laws must be empirical. I argue that the epistemic functions of a priori biological laws in biology are the same as those of empirical laws in physics. Thus, the requirement that laws be empirical is idle in connection with how laws operate in science. This result presents a choice between sticking with an unmotivated philosophical requirement and taking the functional equivalence of laws (...)
  36. Laws in the Special Sciences: A Comparative Study of Biological Generalizations.Mehmet Elgin - 2002 - Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison
    The question of whether biology contains laws has important implications about the nature of science. Some philosophers believe that the legitimacy of the special sciences depends on whether they contain laws. In this dissertation, I defend the thesis that biology contains laws. In Chapter I, I discuss the importance of this problem and set the stage for my inquiry. In Chapter V, I summarize the results of Chapters II, III, and IV and I offer reasons why the position I advance (...)
  37. Symposium: Causal Laws in Psychology.B. A. Farrell, Margaret Braithwaite & C. A. Mace - 1949 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 23 (1):31 - 68.
  38. Natural Laws in Social Science.Antony Flew - 1987 - In Gerard Radnitzky (ed.), Centripetal Forces in the Sciences. Paragon House Publishers. pp. 1--393.
  39. 2 Special Sciences.Jerry A. Fodor - 1995 - In Paul K. Moser & J. D. Trout (eds.), Contemporary Materialism: A Reader. Routledge. pp. 51.
  40. Special Sciences.Jerry A. Fodor - 1974 - Synthese 28 (2):97-115.
  41. Laws and States in Quantum Mechanics.John Forge - 1996 - In P. Riggs (ed.), Natural Kinds, Laws of Nature and Scientific Methodology. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 163--185.
  42. The Modal Laws of Economics.A. Garcia de la Sienra - 1998 - Philosophia Reformata 63 (2):182-205.
    Herman Dooyeweerd’s classical characterization of the meaning-kernel of the economic modality runs as follows: the sparing or frugal mode of administering scarce goods, implying an alternative choice of their destination with regard to the satisfaction of different human needs. My first aim in this paper is to show that Dooyeweerd’s characterization of the meaning-kernel of the economic modality naturally leads to neoclassical economic theory. In order to do this, I will provide an argument that, departing from Dooyeweerd’s definition of the (...)
  43. Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe. By Michael J. Denton. New York: The Free Press, 1998. [REVIEW]Marie I. George - 2001 - The Thomist 65:323-326.
  44. Universal Laws and Economic Phenomena.Austin Gerig - 2011 - Complexity 17 (1):9-12.
    Despite the idiosyncratic behavior of individuals, empirical regularities exist in social and economic systems. These regularities often arise from simple underlying mechanisms which, analogous to the natural sciences, can be expressed as universal principles or laws. In this essay, I discuss the similarities between economic and natural phenomena and argue that it is advantageous for economists to adopt methods from the natural sciences to discover “universal laws” in economic systems.
  45. Can Men Change Laws of Social Science?Alan Gewirth - 1954 - Philosophy of Science 21 (3):229-241.
  46. The Individuality Thesis, Essences, and Laws of Nature.Michael T. Ghiselin - 1988 - Biology and Philosophy 3 (4):467-474.
  47. Modest Evolutionary Naturalism.Ronald N. Giere - 2006 - Biological Theory 1 (1):52-60.
    I begin by arguing that a consistent general naturalism must be understood in terms of methodological maxims rather than metaphysical doctrines. Some specific maxims are proposed. I then defend a generalized naturalism from the common objection that it is incapable of accounting for the normative aspects of human life, including those of scientific practice itself. Evolutionary naturalism, however, is criticized as being incapable of providing a sufficient explanation of categorical moral norms. Turning to the epistemological norms of science itself, particularly (...)
  48. On the Knowledge of the Laws of Social-Development.Ge Glezerman - 1980 - Filosoficky Casopis 28 (6):835-857.
  49. Are Social Mechanisms the Antonym of Laws?Amparo Gómez Rodríguez - 2015 - Epistemologia 1:31-46.
    The thesis that in social sciences causal explanations are possible only in terms o mechanisms due to the lack of genuine laws has been increasingly popular among social scientist and philosophers. In this article it is examined whether the explanation by mechanism is necessarily an explanation without laws or, on the contrary, it can involve some kind o laws. To this end it is argued, firstly, that mechanisms are not always the antonym of law insofar as they express propensities and (...)
  50. The Biological Principle of Natural Sciences and the Logos of Life of Natural Philosophy: A Comparison and the Perspectives of Unifying the Science and Philosophy of Life.Attila Grandpierre - 2011 - Analecta Husserliana 110 (Part II):711-727.
    Acknowledging that Nature is one unified whole, we expect that physics and biology are intimately related. Keeping in mind that physics became an exact science with which we are already familiar with, while, apparently, we do not have at present a similar knowledge about biology, we consider how can we make useful the clarity of physics to shed light to biology. The next question will be what are the most basic categories of physics and biology. If we do not want (...)
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