The strong arm of the law: a unified account of necessary and contingent laws of nature

Synthese 199 (3-4):10211-10252 (2021)
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A common feature of all standard theories of the laws of nature is that they are "absolutist": They take laws to be either all metaphysically necessary or all contingent. Science, however, gives us reason to think that there are laws of both kinds, suggesting that standard theories should make way for "non-absolutist" alternatives: theories which accommodate laws of both modal statuses. In this paper, we set out three explanatory challenges for any candidate non-absolutist theory and discuss the prospects of the two extant candidates in light of these challenges. We then develop our own non-absolutist theory, the essentialist DTA account, which combines the nomic-necessitation or DTA account with an essentialist approach to metaphysical modality in order to meet the three explanatory challenges. Finally, we argue that the distinction between kinematical and dynamical laws found in physical theories supports both non-absolutism in general and our proposed essentialist DTA view in particular.

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Author Profiles

Robert Michels
Universidade de Lisboa
Salim Hirèche
University of Geneva (PhD)
Niels Linnemann
University of Geneva
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Citations of this work

Categorical Monism, Laws, and the Inference Problem.Vassilis Livanios - 2023 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 54 (4):599-619.
Em Defesa do Necessitarismo Causal.Caio Cézar Silva dos Santos - 2023 - Dissertation, Universidade Federal Do Rio de Janeiro

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Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Laws and symmetry.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
A World of States of Affairs.D. M. Armstrong - 1997 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
The metaphysics within physics.Tim Maudlin - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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