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History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences - Vol. 32, no. 4 (2010)
Article

Mehmet Elgin, Mathematical Models, Explanation, Laws, and Evolutionary Biology


Abstract

It is commonly agreed in the literature on laws of nature that there are at least two necessary conditions for lawhood – that a law must have empirical content and that it must be universal. The main reason offered for the requirement that laws be empirical is as follows: a priori statements are consistent with any imaginable set of observations, so they cannot be informative about the world and therefore they cannot provide explanations. However, we care about laws because we think that laws provide explanations and allow us to make predictions. Thus, if one of the functions of laws is to provide explanations and a priori propositions cannot fulfill this function, they cannot properly be viewed as laws. In this paper, I will aim to show that this argument for the claim that laws must be empirical does not work.


Keywords

Laws, explanation, mathematical models, biology, a priori laws, strict universality, empirical content, the Duhem-Quine Thesis


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