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Dispositions and Ceteris Paribus Laws

Alice Drewery
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Vol. 52, No. 4 (Dec., 2001), pp. 723-733
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3541916
Page Count: 11
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Dispositions and Ceteris Paribus Laws
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Abstract

This paper discusses the relationship between dispositions and laws and the prospects for any analysis of talk of laws in terms of talk of dispositions. Recent attempts at such a reduction have often been motivated by the desire to give an account of ceteris paribus laws and in this they have had some success. However, such accounts differ as to whether they view dispositions as properties fundamentally of individuals or of kinds. I argue that if dispositions are properties of individuals, we cannot give a complete account of ceteris paribus laws. Alternatively, if dispositions are properties of kinds, any reductive analysis of laws would require an extension of the notion of the dispositional beyond its usual meaning so that in effect there can be no reduction of laws to dispositions as traditionally understood. An attempt to reduce the nomological to the dispositional is therefore not the way to provide a unified account of traditional and ceteris paribus laws.

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