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Drewery, Alice, and . Essentialism and the Necessity of the Laws of Nature

2005, Synthese 144(3): 381-396.

Abstract: In this paper the author discusses and evaluates different arguments for the view that the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. She conclude that essentialist arguments from the nature of natural kinds fail to establish that essences are ontologically more basic than laws, and fail to offer an a priori argument for the necessity of all causal laws. Similar considerations carry across to the argument from the dispositionalist view of properties, which may end up placing unreasonable constraints on property identity across possible worlds. None of her arguments preclude the possibility that the laws may turn out to be metaphysically necessary after all, but she argues that this can only be established by a posteriori scientific investigation. She argues for what may seem to be a surprising conclusion: that a fundamental metaphysical question – the modal status of laws of nature – depends on empirical facts rather than purely on a priori reasoning.

Comment: An excellent paper that could serve as further or specialized reading for postgraduate courses in philosophy of science, in particular, for modules related to the study of the laws of nature. The paper offers an in-depth discussion of essentialist arguments, but also touches upon many other fundamental concepts such as grounding, natural kinds, dispositions and necessity.

Vetter, Barbara, and . Potentiality: From Dispositions to Modality

2015, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Note: This book develops and defends dispositionalism about modality: the view that metaphysical modality is a matter of the dispositions that objects have. Dispositionalism is an attractive view for actualists about modality, and for anyone who embraces an anti-Humean metaphysics of powers. This book shows in detail how such a view is to be formulated, which challenges it faces, and how they may be met. The metaphysics of potentiality is examined in detail to show that the view meets the three main challenges for a metaphysics of modality: (1) Extensional correctness: providing the right truth-values for statements of possibility and necessity; (2) formal adequacy: providing the right logic for metaphysical modality; and (3) semantic utility: providing a semantics that links ordinary modal language to the metaphysics of modality.

Comment: The book develops the dispositionalist view in a way that takes account of contemporary developments in metaphysics, logic, and semantics. It can be used as a main reading in metaphysics and as further reading in many other fields. Recommendable in principle for postgraduate courses.