Journal Article

Dispositions and <i>Ceteris Paribus</i> Laws

Alice Drewery

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 52, issue 4, pages 723-733
Published in print December 2001 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2001 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/52.4.723
Dispositions and Ceteris Paribus Laws

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This paper discusses the relationship between dispositions and laws and the prospects for any analysis of talk of laws in terms of talk of dispositions. Recent attempts at such a reduction have often been motivated by the desire to give an account of ceteris paribus laws and in this they have had some success. However, such accounts differ as to whether they view dispositions as properties fundamentally of individuals or of kinds. I argue that if dispositions are properties of individuals, we cannot give a complete account of ceteris paribus laws. Alternatively, if dispositions are properties of kinds, any reductive analysis of laws would require an extension of the notion of the dispositional beyond its usual meaning so that in effect there can be no reduction of laws to dispositions as traditionally understood. An attempt to reduce the nomological to the dispositional is therefore not the way to provide a unified account of traditional and ceteris paribus laws.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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