Synthese 144 (3):415Ð432 (2005)

Marc Lange
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Many philosophers have believed that the laws of nature differ from the accidental truths in their invariance under counterfactual perturbations. Roughly speaking, the laws would still have held had q been the case, for any q that is consistent with the laws. (Trivially, no accident would still have held under every such counterfactual supposition.) The main problem with this slogan (even if it is true) is that it uses the laws themselves to delimit qs range. I present a means of distinguishing the laws (and their logical consequences) from the accidents, in terms of their range of invariance under counterfactual antecedents, that does not appeal to physical modalities (or any cognate notion) in delimiting the relevant range of counterfactual perturbations. I then argue that this approach explicates the sense in which the laws possess a kind of necessity.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-005-5874-1
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: 51,480
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

Natural Laws in Scientific Practice.Marc Lange - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
The Problem of Counterfactual Conditionals.Nelson Goodman - 1947 - Journal of Philosophy 44 (5):113-128.
Laws of Nature, Cosmic Coincidences and Scientific Realism.Marc Lange - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (4):614 – 638.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Stability Theory of Belief.Hannes Leitgeb - 2014 - Philosophical Review 123 (2):131-171.
Natural Kindness.Matthew Slater - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):375-411.
Laws and Meta-Laws of Nature: Conservation Laws and Symmetries.Marc Lange - 2007 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 38 (3):457-481.
Good Questions.Alejandro Pérez Carballo - 2018 - In Jeffrey Dunn & Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij (eds.), Epistemic Consequentialism. Oxford, UK: pp. 123-145.

View all 24 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Laws and Possibilities.Arnold Koslow - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (5):719-729.
Why Are the Laws of Nature so Important to Science?Marc Lange - 1999 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (3):625-652.
Popper on Laws and Counterfactuals.Danilo Šuster - 2005 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 5 (1):109-119.
Natural Laws in Scientific Practice.Marc Lange - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
A Note on Scientific Essentialism, Laws of Nature, and Counterfactual Conditionals.Marc Lange - 2004 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (2):227 – 241.
Laws, Counterfactuals, Stability, and Degrees of Lawhood.Marc Lange - 1999 - Philosophy of Science 66 (2):243-267.


Added to PP index

Total views
230 ( #34,062 of 2,330,639 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #255,600 of 2,330,639 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes