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David Armstrong accepted the following three theses: universals are immanent, laws are relations between universals, and laws govern. Taken together, they form an attractive position, for they promise to explain regularities in nature—one of the most important desiderata for a theory of laws and properties—while remaining compatible with naturalism. However, I argue that the three theses are incompatible. The basic idea is that each thesis makes an explanatory claim, but the three claims can be shown to run in a problematic circle. I then consider which thesis we ought to reject (hint: see the title) and suggest some general lessons for the metaphysics of laws.
This article is concerned with the relationship between scientific practice and the metaphysics of laws of nature and natural properties. I begin by examining an argument by Michael Townsen Hicks and Jonathan Schaffer (‘Derivative Properties in Fundamental Laws,’ British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 2017) that an important feature of scientific practice—namely, that scientists sometimes invoke non-fundamental properties in fundamental laws—is incompatible with metaphysical theories according to which laws govern. I respond to their argument by developing an epistemology for governing laws that is grounded in scientific practice. This epistemology is of general interest for non-Humean theories of laws, for it helps to explain our epistemic access to non-Humean theoretical entities such as governing laws or fundamental powers.
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