Erkenntnis 58 (2):137-168 (2003)

John F. Halpin
Oakland University
An acceptable empiricist account of laws of nature would havesignificant implications for a number of philosophical projects. For example, such an account may vitiate argumentsthat the fundamental constants of nature are divinelydesigned so that laws produce a life permittinguniverse. On an empiricist account, laws do not produce the universe but are designed by us to systematize theevents of a universe which does in fact contain life; so any ``fine tuning'' of natural law has a naturalistic explanation.But there are problems for the empiricist project. This paper develops a ``perspectival'' version of the Humean bestsystem approach and argues that this version solves the standard problems faced by the empiricist project.Furthermore, the paper argues, this version is best able to answer the proponents of divine design while leaving scientificlaw a suitably objective matter.[I]t is possible tocondense the enormous mass of results to a large extent – that is to find laws which summarize...Richard Feynman It has become fashionable in some circles to argue thatscience is ultimately a sham, that we scientists read order into nature, not out of nature, and that the laws of physicsare our laws, not nature's. I believe this is arrant nonsense. You would be hard-pressed to convince a physicist thatNewton's inverse square law of gravitation is a purely cultural concoction. The laws of physics, I submit, reallyexist in the world out there, and the job of the scientist is to uncover them, not invent them. True, at any giventime, the laws you find in the textbooks are tentative and approximate, but they mirror, albeit imperfectly, a reallyexisting order in the physical world. Of course, many scientists do not recognize that in accepting the reality of anorder in nature-the existence of laws `out there' – they are adopting a theological world view. P. C. W. Davies
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Ethics   Logic   Ontology
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/a:1022029912912
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,066
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

New Work for a Theory of Universals.David Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
What is a Law of Nature?D. M. Armstrong - 1983 - Cambridge University Press.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
Humean Supervenience Debugged.David Lewis - 1994 - Mind 103 (412):473--490.
New Work For a Theory of Universals.David Lewis - 1983 - In D. H. Mellor & Alex Oliver (eds.), Properties. Oxford University Press.

View all 27 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

A Better Best System Account of Lawhood.Jonathan Cohen & Craig Callender - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 145 (1):1 - 34.
No Work For a Theory of Universals.M. Eddon & Christopher J. G. Meacham - 2015 - In Jonathan Schaffer & Barry Loewer (eds.), A Companion to David Lewis. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 116-137.
Better Best Systems and the Issue of CP-Laws.Markus Schrenk - 2014 - Erkenntnis 79 (S10):1787-1799.
Regularity Theories Reassessed.Michael Baumgartner - 2006 - Philosophia 36 (3):327-354.

View all 14 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Laws, Chances and Properties.D. H. Mellor - 1990 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 4 (2):159 – 170.
Laws and Symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
The Law Governed Universe.John T. Roberts - 2008 - Oxford University Press.
Laws of Nature.Norman Swartz - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Laws of Nature.Fred I. Dretske - 1977 - Philosophy of Science 44 (2):248-268.
The Argument From Laws of Nature Reassessed.Richard Swinburne - 2004 - In M. Ruse & W. Dembski (eds.), Debating Design: From Darwin to Dna. Cambridge University Press.


Added to PP index

Total views
434 ( #21,687 of 2,498,779 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
7 ( #102,173 of 2,498,779 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes