Kinds and criteria of scientific laws

Philosophy of Science 28 (3):260-281 (1961)
Abstract
Factual statements that might qualify for the status of law statements are classed from various philosophically relevant standpoints (referents, precision, structure of predicates, extension, systemicity, inferential power, inception, ostensiveness, testability, levels, and determination categories). More than seven dozen of not mutually exclusive kinds of lawlike statements emerge. Strictly universal and counterfactually powerful statements are seen to constitute just one kind of lawlike statements; classificatory and some statistical laws, e.g., are shown not to comply with the requirements of universality and counterfactual force. Conditions for lawlike statements to be called laws are then examined, and a liberal criterion of lawfulness is finally proposed, which reads thus: A proposition is a law statement if and only if it is a posteriori (not logically true), general in some respect (does not refer to unique objects), has been satisfactorily corroborated for the time being in some domain, and belongs to a theory (whether adult or embryonic). It is claimed that criteria of laws change alongside with the emergence of new usages of the term 'law', and that by adopting a liberal criterion of lawfulness we would conform to contemporary usage and would cease inhibiting the search for regularities in the sciences of man
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DOI 10.1086/287809
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