Error Theories of Law

These accounts claim that there aren't really any laws of nature, although we think that there are.

The main form that this takes is the claim that laws are only true ceteris paribus, which boils down to "true unless they aren't in this case". For example, everything accelerates towards the earth at g. Except for helium balloons, leaves, aeroplanes, space rockets...

The replacement theory deals with defeasible capacities: everything has a capacity to accelerate towards the earth at g, but some things also have other capacities which interfere with this.


The main source is Cartwright 1983.


A major problem with this account is that the nature of capacities is still rather unclear. Another problem is that leaves and aeroplanes do not, in normal usage, violate the law of gravity, so that interpretation (which is important to the rhetoric, at least, of the theory) is tendentious.
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Copyright David Chart 1998