Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (4):631-647 (2014)

Authors
Nora Berenstain
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Abstract
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 certain higher-level laws describing the behaviours of molecular compounds may be necessary due to their dependence on underlying physical laws, and that the modal status of laws of nature cannot be determined a priori, as the structural features of the substances and properties they govern must first be investigated.
Keywords laws of nature  modality  scientific essentialism  a priori necessity  conceivability  possibility  law necessitarianism
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DOI 10.1080/00048402.2014.924541
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On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Wiley-Blackwell.
What is a Law of Nature?D. M. Armstrong - 1983 - Cambridge University Press.
On The Plurality of Worlds.Graeme Forbes - 1988 - Philosophical Quarterly 38 (151):222-240.
Causal and Metaphysical Necessity.Sidney Shoemaker - 1998 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 79 (1):59–77.

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