Laws and Symmetry (Clarendon Paperbacks)
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Metaphysicians speak of laws of nature in terms of necessity and universality; scientists, in terms of symmetry and invariance. In this book van Fraassen argues that no metaphysical account of laws can succeed. He analyzes and rejects the arguments that there are laws of nature, or that we must believe there are, and argues that we should disregard the idea of law as an adequate clue to science. After exploring what this means for general epistemology, the author develops the empiricist view of science as a construction of models to represent the phenomena.
second point that had better be noticed is that these effects would appear in the same way if our background beliefs had nothing lawlike about them, as long as they relate to the instances in the same way. For consider another example. I am told that the ten coins I am about to be shown came either from Peter's pocket or from Paul's; that Peter's contained ten dimes and ﬁfty nickels, while Paul's contained sixty dimes. The ﬁrst seven to be put before me are dimes. Obviously, on the supposition
rational. This conviction about IBE appears not only here, but throughout the book, and not surprisingly: IBE is the engine that drives Armstrong's metaphysical enterprise. It provides his view of science (p. 6: ‘We may make an “inference to the best explanation from the predictive success of contemporary scientiﬁc theory to the conclusion that such theory mirrors at least some of the laws of nature . . . ”.’). He also regards IBE as being ﬁrst of all a form of inference to be found pervasively
him, positive for both these wagers. For such a person, the possibility of vindication for his opinion is sabotaged from the start. Now what is logic? Exactly what it was for Aristotle, but transposed to other things besides factual/descriptive statements as well. Speciﬁcally, in the case of judgements of opinion, we want to know: (1) What combinations of judgements constitute an incoherent state of opinion? (2) Which judgements follow from a given set of judgements? For (1) the short answer can
the rival hypotheses in the competition. Some results are shown in 165 TOWARDS A NEW EPISTEMOLOGY Table 7.4. The comparison is the exact opposite of what Dretske suggests. These ratios all tend to one in the limit, but conﬁdence in the ‘little law’ of bias does so more slowly. Table 7.4. Rates of Increase Toss Toss Toss Toss 3 to 4 9 to 10 14 to 15 19 to 20 Increase in probability of X(N) N=2 1.0588 1.00098 1.0000305 1.0000009 Increase in proportion of favourable cases N = 10 1.194
to disbelieve. And similarly for ways of change: the rational ways to change your opinion include any that remain within the bounds of rationality—which may be very wide. Rationality is only bridled irrationality. So: we are outside in the world already, full of opinions and expectation. In response to experience we amend our opinion and form new expectations, but with critical deliberation. This deliberation, it would seem, can also issue in the rejection or change of previous opinions, or