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Laws and Other Worlds: A Response to Martin

  • Fred Wilson (a1)

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Robert Martin, in his review of my Laws and Other Worlds, has grasped the thrust of much of the argument. I would like to respond to three specific points that he makes, and to add a couple of more general comments that will bring out some other aspects of the structure of the argument that he misses, to try to show why I think the sort of enterprise the book attempts is worthwhile, more important than Martin's own pragmatic tendencies will perhaps allow.

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1 Martin, Robert, “Wilson's Laws and Other Worlds”, Dialogue (this issue), 321327; Wilson, Fred, Laws and Other Worlds (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1986).

2 As always in the history of philosophy, there is an exception to a generalization like this. In this case it is C. J. Ducasse, who was prepared to use any argument, good, bad, or indifferent, in his anti-Humean polemics.

3 I have argued much the same sort of point with respect to the deductive-nomological account of explanation in Explanation, Causation and Deduction (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1985). Explanation, Causation and Deduction and Laws and Other Worlds are in fact complementary, each contributing different aspects of an overall defence of the Humean position.

4 Cf. Wilson, F., “Kuhn and Goodman: Revolutionary vs. Conservative Science”, Philosophical Studies 44 (1983), 369380.

5 Cf. Kordig, C., The Justification of Scientific Change (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1971).

6 It also precludes an adequate understanding of many issues concerning explanation and concerning the defence of the deductive-nomological model against its many recent critics; see Explanation, Causation and Deduction.

7 Nor in fact for Lewis himself, since upon his view “actual” is an indexical expression, referring to the possible world in which it happens to be used, as “now” refers to the moment at which it is used.

8 I remember once having a conversation with Wilfrid Sellars concerning proofreaders: when he was editor of Philosophical Studies, authors never proofread their own mate rial; since authors could never be relied upon to do a good job on their own work, he insisted upon using professional proofreaders. Martin mentions the number of typographical errors in Laws and Other Worlds, thereby showing how reasonable was Sellars' position. I alone am responsible for the proofreading, and if the job is less than adequate, as Martin claims, no doubt rightly, then I would like to take the opportunity to apologize to both the readers and to the publisher for an ill-accomplished task. Martin also complains about my style. I am certain that few novelists or poets who have won a Governor General's Award ever did so without the help of a first-rate editor. If the best of our writers benefit from the help of an editor, then no doubt most philosophers, this one included, could do so too. But Martin also complains about the price of the book. It is true that the price of books has inflated faster than the starting salaries of assistant professors. This reflects two things. One is the incapacity of professors to resist the salary erosion in real terms that governments have been able to impose upon them. The other is the fact that the market for books in technical philosophy can be numbered in the hundreds. What must be realized is that if a publisher were to do what is best, by having professional proofreaders and professional editors, then the price he would have to charge would be much higher. Whatever my own shortcomings as a proofreader and a stylist, I still cannot help thinking that in his complaints, Martin is still trying to have it both ways. In my view, Reidel is to be complemented in doing a good job in difficult circumstances.

Laws and Other Worlds: A Response to Martin

  • Fred Wilson (a1)

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