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May 192016

Beebee, Helen, and . The non-governing conception of laws of nature

2000, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 56: 571-594.

Abstract: Recently several thought experiments have been developed (by John Carroll amongst others) which have been alleged to refute the Ramsey-Lewis view of laws of nature. The paper aims to show that two such thought experiments fail to establish that the Ramsey-Lewis view is false, since they presuppose a conception of laws of nature that is radically at odds with the Humean conception of laws embodied by the Ramsey- Lewis view. In particular, the thought experiments presuppose that laws of nature govern the behavior of objects. The paper argues that the claim that laws govern should not be regarded as a conceptual truth, and shows how the governing conception of laws manifests itself in the thought experiments. Hence the thought experiments do not constitute genuine counter-examples to the Ramsey-Lewis view, since the Humean is free to reject the conception of laws which the thought experiments presuppose.

Comment: Good primary or secondary reading for advanced undergraduate or graduate philosophy of science or metaphysics courses; or any course where laws of nature are relevant (for instance, a course considering the contemporary impact of Hume).

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