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Mechanisms, Laws, and Regularities*

Holly K. Andersen
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 78, No. 2 (April 2011), pp. 325-331
DOI: 10.1086/659229
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/659229
Page Count: 7
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Mechanisms, Laws, and Regularities*
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Abstract

Leuridan argued that mechanisms cannot provide a genuine alternative to laws of nature as a model of explanation in the sciences, and he advocates Mitchell’s pragmatic account of laws. I first demonstrate that Leuridan gets the order of priority wrong among mechanisms, regularity, and laws, and then make some clarifying remarks about how laws and mechanisms relate to regularities. Mechanisms are not an explanatory alternative to regularities; they are an alternative to laws. The existence of stable regularities in nature is necessary for either model of explanation: regularities are what laws describe and what mechanisms explain.

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