Laws of nature have long puzzled philosophers. What distinguishes laws from facts about the world that do not rise to the level of laws? How can laws be contingent and nevertheless necessary? In this brief, accessible study, Lange offers provocative and original answers to these questions. He argues that laws are distinguished by their necessity, which is grounded in primitive subjunctive facts (expressed by counterfactual conditionals). While recognizing that natural necessity is distinct from logical, metaphysical, and mathematical necessity, Lange explains how natural necessity constitutes a species of the same genus as those other varieties of necessity. Along the way, Lange discusses the relation between laws and objective chances, as well as such unjustly neglected topics as the completeness of the laws of physics and whether the laws of nature can change. Lange's elegant, engagingly written book is non-technical and suitable for undergraduate philosophers (and undergraduate scientists interested in the logical foundations of science). It is "must reading" for metaphysicians and philosophers of science working on laws, chance, counterfactuals, modality, or the philosophy of physics.
Preface; CHAPTER 1: LAWS FORM COUNTERFACTUALLY STABLE SETS; 1. Welcome; 2. Their necessity sets the laws apart; 3. The laws's persistence under counterfactuals; 4. Nomic preservation; 5. Beyond nomic preservation; 6. A host of related problems: triviality, circularity, arbitrariness; 7. Sub-nomic stability; 8. No nonmaximal set containing accidents possesses sub-nomic stability; 9. How two sub-nomically stable sets must be related: multiple strata of natural laws; 10. Why the laws would still have been laws; 11. Conclusion: laws form stable sets; CHAPTER 2: NATURAL NECESSITY; 1. Our goal in this chapter; 2. The Euthyphro question; 3. David Lewis's "Best-System Account"; 4. Lewis's account and the laws's supervenience; 5. The Euthyphro question returns; 6. Are all relative necessities created equal?; 7. The modality principle; 8. A proposal for distinguishing genuine from merely relative modalities; 9. Borrowing a strategy from Chapter 1; 10. Necessity as maximal invariance; 11. The laws form a system; 12. Scientific essentialism squashes the pyramid; 13. Why there is a natural ordering of the genuine modalities; 14. Conclusion: stability, as maximal invariance, involves necessity; CHAPTER 4: A WORLD OF SUBJUNCTIVES; 1. What if the lawmakers were subjunctive facts?; 2. The lawmakers's regress; 3. Stability; 4. Avoiding adhocery; 5. nstantaneous rates of change and the causal explanation problem; 6. Et in Arcadia ego; 7. The rule of law; 8. Why the laws must be complete; 9. Envoi: Am I cheating?