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Mulder, K.P.

Author: Klaas Pier Mulder

Graduation Year: 2009

Department: Theoretical Philosophy

Thesis: Laws out of Necessity


The heart of many philosophical debates concerns questions about why the world is regular
and predictable. One possible answer to such questions refers to the existence of Laws of
Nature, that guide nature into secure pathways. A much used metaphor is to present these
Laws as decrees in God's book of nature. But the metaphor hardly helps to answer the
question what these Laws of Nature exactly are, and how they are able to fulfill this crucial
role in the universe.
In my thesis I present three different approaches to that question; the DTA theory by David
Armstrong; Stephen Mumford's Realists Lawlessness and a realistic interpretation of the
views of David Lewis. As the concept of Law of Nature stems from science and because real
Laws of Nature are supposed to be the source of nature's causality, it's interesting to see
how these philosophical theories compare with physicists´ attempts to formulate a final
theory. In the second chapter the philosophical theories are confronted with the ideas of
Stephen Weinberg, Lee Smolin and Leonard Susskind. This confrontation clearly shows that
the metaphysics behind the philosophical theories on Laws of Nature differ from the
metaphysics that are implicitly and explicitly held by the physicists that are discussed.
In the third and final chapter I will re-evaluate the problems and advantages of the
philosophical approaches in light of the conclusions of the second chapter. An alternative is
presented that more closely fits the metaphysics of the physicists while still providing an
adequate answer to the original question; how are Laws of Nature able to govern the
universe? I will argue that instead of the Laws of Newton, the theory of natural selection can
be seen as a paradigm example of a Law of Nature. But although the effects of such a Law
of Nature can be very real, it has no ontological basis. Could it be that God´s book of Nature
consists of empty pages?

Last modified:30 May 2016 11.57 a.m.