Stephen Mumford's laws in nature

Mumford presents the friends of laws with a Central Dilemma, either horn of which is supposed to be utterly unpalatable. The thrust of the dilemma is this: laws are either external or internal to their instances. If they are external, they cannot govern (or determine) their instances. If they are internal, they cannot govern (or determine) their instances. Ergo, laws cannot govern (or determine) their instances. The role of this dilemma is central to Mumford’s argument against laws: they are supposed to have no credible role to play. The dilemma rests on the premise that laws, if they exist, must do something: they must play a governing role. Of course, it is one thing to say that laws play a governing role and it is quite another to say that laws must play some role. Mumford (§9.4) agonises a lot about this, but his considered view is that laws must play an x- role in virtue of which they make a difference in the determination of the world’s history. As Mumford is fully aware, the supposed ‘governing role’ of laws might be just a metaphor. Still, he thinks his Central Dilemma is powerful against any x-role that laws are supposed to play. We shall see later that this is not so. For the time being, let us play along. The central dilemma is faulty, anyway.
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