Marc Lange. Laws and Lawmakers: Science, Metaphysics, and the Laws of Nature

Christopher Belanger


In Laws and Lawmakers: Science, Metaphysics, and the Laws of Nature, Marc Lange has presented an engagingly written, tightly argued, and novel philosophical account of the laws of nature. One of the intuitions behind the notion of a law of nature is, roughly, that of the many regularities we observe in the world there are some which appear to be due to mere happen-stance (“accidental” regularities, in the philosopher’s jargon), while others, which we call “laws,” seem to be possessed of a degree of necessity. For example, if the only music ever to come out of my stereo system during the entirety of its existence were that of James Brown, we would term this an accidental regularity: it seems that it could have been otherwise had the world been different, perhaps by the stereo having a different owner or my having different tastes. On the other hand, the various relations and properties that determine the electrical functioning of my stereo seem more necessary and lawlike: presumably Ohm’s law would have held even had my stereo never been built.1 But even if Ohm’s law is somehow necessary, it seems less necessary than other “broadly logical” truths. Certainly Ohm’s law could have been different, perhaps by a factor of two, yet it seems unreasonable to say that the number 6 could have been prime. Although many philosophers, and certainly most scientists, will readily agree that there is a difference between logical, law-like, and accidental regularities, spelling out the nature of this difference has proved a remarkably difficult task. It is precisely this puzzle which Lange intends Laws and Lawmakers to address. In this review I shall first give a quick and broad outline of Lange’s account of natural laws as I understand it, followed by a brief summary of the contents of the book, and then close with a few critical comments.

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