Oxford, England: Oxford University Press (1989)

Bas C. Van Fraassen
San Francisco State University
Metaphysicians speak of laws of nature in terms of necessity and universality; scientists, in terms of symmetry and invariance. In this book van Fraassen argues that no metaphysical account of laws can succeed. He analyzes and rejects the arguments that there are laws of nature, or that we must believe there are, and argues that we should disregard the idea of law as an adequate clue to science. After exploring what this means for general epistemology, the author develops the empiricist view of science as a construction of models to represent the phenomena.
Keywords Philosophy of nature  Necessity (Philosophy  Symmetry  Philosophy and science
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 1993, 2003
Buy this book $25.00 used (64% off)   $48.63 new (31% off)   Amazon page
Call number BD581.V27 1989
ISBN(s) 0198248601   9780198248606
DOI 10.2307/2185907
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,066
Through your library
Chapters BETA

The historical role of the concept of a law of nature in medieval and early modern physics engendered a view of science as continuous with metaphysics, which has tended to dominate philosophy of nature and of science. Meanwhile, with the development of mathematical methods, the advanced sc... see more

Ideal Science: David Lewis's Account of Laws 1

According to Lewis's original account, the laws of nature in a given possible world are the principles of the best scientific theory of that world, where ‘best’ denotes an optimal combination of strength and simplicity. This serves to provide content to a notion of physical necessity, but ... see more

Inference to the Best Explanation: Salvation by Laws?

Induction has given way to Infere nce to the Best Explanation (IBE) in the epistemology hospitable to realism, or to metaphysics in general. Both Dretske and Armstrong provide severe critiques of traditional notions of Induction, and offer new foundations for inductive methods. This chapte... see more

Towards a New Epistemology

The underground river of probabilism, slowly growing in force over three centuries, burst forth above ground in the twentieth century and brought new hope for epistemology. Probabilism sees its historical origin in the work of Blaise Pascal in the seventeenth century, but has for the main ... see more

What if There Are No Laws? a Manifesto

An initial introduction to the semantic approach to science, this chapter provides a view of scientific theories in terms of classes of models and their relation to the phenomena. The main tasks of philosophy of science can be carried out within the framework of this approach without drawi... see more

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Grounding in the Image of Causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (1):49-100.
Epistemic Permissiveness.Roger White - 2005 - Philosophical Perspectives 19 (1):445–459.
How Models Are Used to Represent Reality.Ronald N. Giere - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (5):742-752.
Two Accounts of Laws and Time.Barry Loewer - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 160 (1):115-137.
What Conditional Probability Could Not Be.Alan Hájek - 2003 - Synthese 137 (3):273--323.

View all 682 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Symmetry Arguments in Physics.Peter Kosso - 1999 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 30 (3):479-492.
Précis of Laws and Symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (2):411 - 412.
Armstrong, Cartwright, and Earman on Laws and Symmetry.Review author[S.]: Bas C. van Fraassen - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (2):431-444.


Added to PP index

Total views
593 ( #13,648 of 2,498,786 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
17 ( #48,566 of 2,498,786 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes