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33. Laws of Nature


Subject Law, Philosophy

Key-Topics nature , science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00036.x


From the very beginnings of science there was the realization that amidst the apparent diversity of patterns to be observed in nature there are some which regularly repeat themselves. There are natural regularities. It was also realized that behind much that appeared irregular and chaotic there are deeper regularities. At one time it was thought that these regularities existed because there were Laws of Nature, in the sense in which behind certain regularities in human conduct there are the Laws of the Land. Even as late as the eighteenth century the two senses of law were knowingly conflated by philosophers. In 1710 Berkeley proposed to account for the fact that there are all sorts of regularities in the world as we observe it by reference to God's role in engen-dering our ideas. From his theology he took the notion of the rules that God prescribes for himself in thinking the world and thinking us and our experiences. It is these rules that account for, and are reflected in, whatever regularities we perceive in nature (see berkeley ). In recent times philosophers of science have taken the Laws of Nature, as they appear in the physical sciences, as descriptions of tendencies and regularities that preexist our attempts to describe them. Most philosophers now believe that the laws play no part in the genesis of natural regularities or the natural tendencies that are displayed in ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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