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The Law-Governed Universe$
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John T. Roberts

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199557707

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199557707.001.0001

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An epistemological argument for the meta‐theoretic conception of laws

An epistemological argument for the meta‐theoretic conception of laws

Chapter:
(p.142) 4 An epistemological argument for the meta‐theoretic conception of laws
Source:
The Law-Governed Universe
Author(s):

John T. Roberts (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199557707.003.0004

This chapter argues that if the universe is governed by laws of nature, then particular laws of nature cannot be discovered by empirical science unless the meta‐theoretic conception of laws is correct. This gives us a powerful reason to embrace the meta‐theoretic conception. The key argument appeals to underdetermination of theory by evidence, but it avoids the pitfalls of familiar underdetermination arguments against realism. Several objections to the argument are considered, including one based on Bayesianism, one based on inference to the best explanation (IBE), one based on contextualist epistemology, and one that alleges that the only way to avoid inductive skepticism is to adopt an epistemology of science that allows for the discovery of laws of nature in spite of radical underdetermination of the laws by the available evidence. All these objections are found wanting.

Keywords:   laws, laws of nature, underdetermination, evidence, Bayesianism, IBE, contextualism, inductive skepticism

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