Laws and Symmetry

Laws and Symmetry

Laws and Symmetry

Laws and Symmetry

Synopsis

Metaphysicians speak of laws of nature in terms of necessity and universality; scientists, in terms of symmetry and invariance. In this book van Fraassen argues that no metaphysical account of laws can succeed. He analyzes and rejects the arguments that there are laws of nature, or that we must believe there are, and argues that we should disregard the idea of law as an inadequate clue to science. After exploring what this means for general epistemology, the author develops the empiricist view of science as a construction of models to represent the phenomena.

Excerpt

In Parts I and II I shall be concerned with the philosophical approach to science which has laws of nature as its central concern. After an initial discussion of criteria, Part I will focus on specific theories of laws of nature, recently proposed and defended. I shall argue that these theories face an insuperable dilemma -- of two problems whose solutions must interfere with each other -- which will occur for all theories of similar stripe. Epistemological arguments to the effect that we must believe in the reality of laws regardless of such difficulties will be broached in Part II. Throughout I shall keep in view the main question: can this approach to science, which looks to such deep foundations, possibly be adequate to its subject?

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