Reply to Ellis and to Handfield on essentialism, laws, and counterfactuals

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (4):581 – 588 (2005)
In Lange 2004a, I argued that 'scientific essentialism' [Ellis 2001 cannot account for the characteristic relation between laws and counterfactuals without undergoing considerable ad hoc tinkering. In recent papers, Brian Ellis 2005 and Toby Handfield 2005 have defended essentialism against my charge. Here I argue that Ellis's and Handfield's replies fail. Even in ordinary counterfactual reasoning, the 'closest possible world' where the electron's electric charge is 5% greater may have less overlap with the actual world in its fundamental natural kinds than a 'more distant possible world' where the electron's charge is 5% greater. But more importantly, essentialism's flexibility in being able to accommodate virtually any relation between laws and counterfactuals is a symptom of essentialism's explanatory impotence as far as that relation is concerned.
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DOI 10.1080/00048400500338971
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References found in this work BETA
Humean Supervenience Debugged.David Lewis - 1994 - Mind 103 (412):473--490.
Natural Laws in Scientific Practice.Marc Lange - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Grounding, Scientific Explanation, and Humean Laws.Marc Lange - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 164 (1):255-261.

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Citations of this work BETA
Natural Kindness.Matthew H. Slater - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):375-411.
Could the Laws of Nature Change?Marc Lange - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (1):69-92.
Some Laws of Nature Are Metaphysically Contingent.John Roberts - 2010 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (3):445-457.
Where No Mind Has Gone Before: Exploring Laws in Distant and Lonely Worlds.Matthew H. Slater & Chris Haufe - 2009 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (3):265-276.

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