Laws and Dispositions

Authored by: Stephen Mumford

The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics

Print publication date:  April  2009
Online publication date:  April  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415396318
eBook ISBN: 9780203879306
Adobe ISBN: 9781134155866


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Evidently there is at least some order and predictability to be found in the world. According to some, this order has an explanation in terms of the world being law-governed. Regularity is thus explained in terms of laws of nature that determine the events occurring in the world or the regular associations that can be found between properties, or between natural kinds and their properties. The source of such laws remains philosophically controversial, however, and it is even controversial that there are any real laws of nature at all. One problem seems to be that while the empirical sciences are concerned with the phenomena and may be happy to call something a law merely because there is some statistical correlation or other regularity to be found, metaphysicians usually require a law to be something more substantial that perhaps underlies and explains any correlations to be found. They tend to think that some regularities could be pure coincidences and that there is a distinction to be drawn between an accidental and genuinely law-like regularity. If they think this, they will seek a metaphysical theory of laws as lying beyond the observable phenomena, and the fact that science often speaks of laws of nature does not determine conclusively that the world is literally law governed.

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