The Law-governed Universe

ISBN : 9780199655939

John T. Roberts
420 ページ
156 x 234 mm

John T. Roberts presents and defends a radically new theory of laws of nature, the Measurability Account. Though consistent with a Humean ontology, Roberts's theory differs sharply from the most influential Humean theory of laws, David Lewis's Best-System Analysis. Unlike other Humean theories, the Measurability Account affirms that there is an important sense in which the laws govern the universe, rather than simply describing it economically. Yet unlike non-Humean theories, it requires only minimal metaphysical commitments. In this way, it combines the advantages of Humean and non-Humean approaches to laws, while avoiding the pitfalls of each. At the heart of the Measurability Account are two new ideas: that lawhood is not a property of facts but rather a role that a proposition can play within a scientific theory, and that what is essential to laws is that they guarantee the reliability of methods of measuring natural quantities. On the basis of these ideas, Roberts argues that we can offer an informative and compelling explanation of why laws have the peculiar counterfactual resilience that sets them apart from accidental uniformities.


1. The law-governed world-picture
2. In defense of some received views
3. The meta-theoretic conception of laws
4. An epistemological argument for the meta-theoretic conception of laws
5. Laws, governing, and counterfactuals
6. When would the laws have been different?
7. How could science show that the laws govern?
8. Measurement and counterfactuals
9. What lawhood is
10. Beyond Humean and Non-Humean
Appendix: The MAL in action: A few examples of scientific theories and their laws


John T. Roberts is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He received his BS in Physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on the intersection of philosophy of science and metaphysics.