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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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Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?

Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?

Chapter:
(p.54) Essay 3 Do the Laws of Physics State the Facts?
Source:
How the Laws of Physics Lie
Author(s):

Nancy Cartwright (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198247044.003.0004

The facticity view of fundamental laws of physics takes them to state facts about reality. To preserve the facticity of laws in the face of complex phenomena with multiple intervening factors, composition of causes, often by vector addition, is invoked. However, this addition should be read only as a metaphor, for only the resultant force is real. The truth and the explanatory power of laws can both be preserved by viewing laws as describing causal powers (or capacities) that objects possess, but this view would require a new account of explanation.

Keywords:   capacities, causal powers, composition of causes, explanatory power, facticity view of laws, vector addition

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