Laws and Symmetry

Laws and Symmetry

3.83 (24 ratings by Goodreads)
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3.83 (24 ratings by Goodreads)

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Metaphysicians speak of laws of nature in terms of necessity and universality; scientists do so in terms of symmetry and invariance. This book argues that no metaphysical account of laws can succeed. The author analyses and rejects the arguments that there are laws of nature, or that we must believe that there are. He argues that we should discard the idea of law as an inadequate clue to science. After exploring what this means for general epistemology, the book
develops the empiricist view of science as a construction of models to represent the phenomena. Concepts of symmetry, transformation, and invariance illuminate the structure of such models. A central role is played in science by symmetry arguments, and it is shown how these function also in the
philosophical analysis of probability. The advocated approach presupposes no realism about laws or necessities in nature.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 410 pages
  • 138 x 215 x 23mm | 572g
  • Clarendon Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • figures, tables
  • 0198248601
  • 9780198248606
  • 699,465

Table of contents

Introduction Part I: Are there laws of nature?; What are the laws of nature?; Ideal science: David Lewis's account of laws; Necessity, worlds, and chance; Universals: Laws grounded in nature; Part II: Belief as rational but lawless: Inference to the best explanation: Salvation by Laws?; Towards a new epistemology; What if there are no laws? A manifesto; Part III: Symmetry as guide to theory: Introduction to the Semantic approach; Symmetry arguments in
science and metaphysics; Symmetries guiding modern science; Part IV: Symmetry and the illusion of logical probability: Indifference: The symmetries of probability; Symmetries of probability kinematics; Notes; Bibliography; Index
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Review quote

`innovative if not provocative
Philosophical Quarterly of Israel, Vol 22, No 3-5 Dec 93 `a marvelously clear and incisive exposition of the problems facing definitions of laws of nature
The Philosophical Review, Vol 102, No 3 (July 1993) `the real excitement and power of the book comes from the new perspective it brings.' Times Higher Education Supplement `I wholeheartedly recommend this book. There are many things to be learnt from it, not least its incisive criticisms of "more metaphysical" theories of laws. The work is executed with great erudition and panache.'
Peter Menzies, Australian National University
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Rating details

24 ratings
3.83 out of 5 stars
5 21% (5)
4 54% (13)
3 17% (4)
2 4% (1)
1 4% (1)
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