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Necessary Laws and the Problem of Counterlegals

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

Substantive counterlegal discourse poses a problem for those according to whom the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. I discern two types of necessitarianism about laws: dispositional essentialism and modal necessitarianism. I argue that Toby Handfield’s response to the problem of counterlegals cannot help the modal necessitarian, according to whom all possible worlds are identical with respect to the laws. I thus propose a fictionalist treatment of counterlegals. Fictions are not limited by metaphysical possibility; hence, fictionalism affords the modal necessitarian the means to account for the apparent substance of counterlegals even granting the metaphysical necessity of the laws.

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Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

I am grateful to Eleanor Knox and to Barbara Vetter for discussion of these ideas and feedback on earlier drafts.

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