Nomological and Transcendental Criteria for Scientific Laws

Croatian Journal of Philosophy 5 (3):533-544 (2005)
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Abstract

It has become a standard view in the philosophy of science scholarship (e.g., van Fraassen [1989]) that debates on the problem of laws of nature and/or scientific laws employ pre-Kantian approaches to the subject in question. But what exactly a Kantian approach might look like and, above all, what Kant endorses on this matter are not entirely settled issues. In particular, this regards Kant’s argument on the problem of ’necessity grounding’ with respect to different types of the so-called “empirical laws of nature” (empirische Naturgesetze) in the third Critique. In order to assess the aforementioned problem, in this paper I will address the following questions:1) What is Kant’s main nomological criterion or a combination of criteria, that is, the criterion/criteria according to which we can explicate the distinction between laws of nature and accidentally true statements?2) What exactly is the role of an apriori law of nature, such as the one instantiated by the Second Analogy of Experience, in considering nature as a lawful existence of objects?3) On what grounds can a statement describing a particular causal regularity, for example, the statement “the sun warms the stone” (Prolegomena, N 301), be viewed as an empirical law of nature?4) Is Kant’s systematicity a nomological criterion in the strict and standard sense or, rather, is it a certain kind of transcendental criterion, which not only makes the whole of Kant’s nomological machinery up and running, but also has decisive influence on the final arrangement of nomological criteria?

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