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How the Laws of Physics Lie$
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Nancy Cartwright

Print publication date: 1983

Print ISBN-13: 9780198247043

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198247044.001.0001

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The Truth Doesn't Explain Much

The Truth Doesn't Explain Much

(p.44) Essay 2 The Truth Doesn't Explain Much
How the Laws of Physics Lie

Nancy Cartwright (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The standard view of explanation in science—the covering law model—assumes that knowledge of laws lies at the basis of our ability to explain phenomena. But in fact most of the high‐level claims in science are ceteris paribus generalizations, which are false unless certain precise conditions obtain. Given the explanatory force of ceteris paribus generalizations but the paucity of true laws, the covering law model of explanation must be false. There is, it is argued, a trade‐off between truth and explanatory power.

Keywords:   ceteris paribus, covering law model, explanation in science, generalization

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