On the metaphysical contingency of laws of nature

In John Hawthorne & Tamar Szabó Gendler (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 309--336 (2002)
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Abstract

This paper defends the traditional view that the laws of nature are contingent, or, if some of them are necessary, this is due to analytic principles for the individuation of the law-governed properties. Fundamentally, I argue that the supposed explanatory purposes served by taking the laws to be necessary --showing how laws support counterfactuals, how properties are individuated, or how we have knowledge of properties--are in fact undermined by the continued possibility of the imagined scenarios--this time, described neutrally--which seemed to disprove the claim to necessity in the first place. I speculate that this will be true for any proposed necessary a posteriori truths, and is a basis for rejecting their supposed metaphysical significance.

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Alan Sidelle
University of Wisconsin, Madison

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