In favor of laws that are not ceteris paribus after all

Erkenntnis 57 (3):425Ð439 (2002)

Authors
Nancy Cartwright
London School of Economics
Abstract
Opponents of ceteris paribus laws are apt to complain that the laws are vague and untestable. Indeed, claims to this effect are made by Earman, Roberts and Smith in this volume. I argue that these kinds of claims rely on too narrow a view about what kinds of concepts we can and do regularly use in successful sciences and on too optimistic a view about the extent of application of even our most successful non-ceteris paribus laws. When it comes to testing, we test ceteris paribus laws in exactly the same way that we test laws without the ceteris paribus antecedent. But at least when the ceteris paribus antecedent is there we have an explicit acknowledgment of important procedures we must take in the design of the experiments — i.e., procedures to control for “all interferences” even those we cannot identify under the concepts of any known theory.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Ethics   Logic   Ontology
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/a:1021550815652
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