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The Nature of Scientific Laws

  • Author / Creator
    Zhao, Yang
  • My thesis is about the nature of natural laws. My view of scientific laws, as you have seen, is very different from the traditional theories of laws. My methods in this paper are very similar in style to Russell’s discussions of laws and science since we both pay attention to actual scientific practices and we both carry out a detailed analysis of scientific knowledge as the basis of further investigations. My investigations in this paper start from the most elementary or basic components of scientific knowledge, that is, scientific quantities. More specifically, I worked on physical quantities because physics is the origin and representative of modern science. The most important point I made about quantities is that they are fundamentally different from qualities, internal or relational. Unlike quality, which is a “static” concept, a quantity captures some aspect of physical changes. Correspondingly, scientific laws, which are composed by quantities, depend on physical changes such as motions as well. The basis of laws is not any individuals, but rather an event or a fact as a whole. As a result, the whole metaphysical picture underlying laws of nature is different. The world of objects with their properties is replaced by the world of motions with quantities. I am not denying the validity of the original world picture. It is just that this is not the world conceived by science. This new understanding of laws also leads to new explications of causation and idealization as given in the last chapter of the paper. As I have argued in the paper, singular causal facts depend substantially on non-causal scientific laws. However, it is not that we directly have a law which connects the cause with the effect. Rather, scientific laws only feature indirectly here. If the quantities that originally describe different facts are finally combined and subsumed by a single law, then we can say these two facts have a causal relation.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3BC3TD06
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.