Philosophical study of scientific laws: A challenge to the dispositional-essentialist theory and the property view of laws

Publication Type:



NIAS (2010)



Analytic philosophers of science have extensively studied laws of nature and have developed different philosophical theories of laws. One of the primary focus of their study was the idea of necessity that is so intimately connected with the notion of a law. As such, these philosophers have focused on the following issue: how best can this idea of necessity be accounted for? Development in this area of work has resulted in a view known as dispositional-essentialist theory of laws that has gained much popularity in recent times, according to which the laws of nature hold of metaphysical necessity. This theory has been strongly advocated by Brian Ellis (1999, 2001, 2002), Alexander Bird (2005a, 2005b, 2007) and Anjan Chakravartty (2003). Such a view of laws is one interpretation of the property theory of laws, which argues that laws of nature involve properties. The other interpretation of property theory of laws is that given by Armstrong (1983), Dretske (1977) and Tooley (1977). However, most of the theories given by philosophers have not engaged with scientific laws sufficiently; laws typically found in text books of science. They have not examined whether the theory of laws that they have proposed is tenable for scientific laws. This thesis examines how scientific laws pose a challenge to the recent theory of dispositional essentialism. The larger part of the argument of this thesis is also an attempt to provide a general critique of the property theory of laws. The dispositional-essentialist draws upon certain ideas like natural kinds, essences and dispositions to establish essentialist view of laws. These will be re-examined in the context of scientific laws.


Thesis submitted to Manipal University.