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date: 19 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Scientists (and scientifically literate laypersons) regard certain regularities or uniformities in the course of nature—but not others—as laws of nature; the ones they regard as laws they allow to play a distinguished role in explanation and in evaluating counterfactuals. The philosophical problem about laws is: What laws of nature could be such that this would be a reasonable and fruitful way for scientists to proceed? This article explores the major current philosophical theories of laws, including dispositional essentialism and the best-system analysis. It also explores several major questions about laws, including the question of their modal status, nomic necessity, the question of Humeanism, the question of hedged laws (i.e., ceteris paribus laws), and the question of governing.

Keywords: laws of nature, ceteris paribus laws, hedged laws, Humeanism, dispositional essentialism, counterfactuals, explanation, nomic necessity, governing

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