Do Statistical Laws Solve the 'Problem of Provisos'?

Erkenntnis 79 (S10):1759-1773 (2014)
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Abstract

In their influential paper “Ceteris Paribus, There is No Problem of Provisos”, Earman and Roberts (Synthese 118:439–478, 1999) propose to interpret the non-strict generalizations of the special sciences as statistical generalizations about correlations. I call this view the “statistical account”. Earman and Roberts claim that statistical generalizations are not qualified by “non-lazy” ceteris paribus conditions. The statistical account is an attractive view, since it looks exactly like what everybody wants: it is a simple and intelligible theory of special science laws without the need for mysterious ceteris paribus conditions. I present two challenges to the statistical account. According to the first challenge, the statistical account does not get rid of so-called “non-lazy” ceteris paribus conditions. This result undermines one of the alleged and central advantages of the statistical account. The second challenge is that the statistical account, qua general theory of special science laws, is weakened by the fact that idealized law statements resist a purely statistical interpretation

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Alexander Reutlinger
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München

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How the laws of physics lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Depth: An Account of Scientific Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Time and chance.David Z. Albert - 2000 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

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