Law statements and generic generalizations



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Tartu Ülikool


Many philosophers and scientists believe that the statements of laws of nature can be given a unified analysis. Law statements are thought to be true lawlike generalizations, where to be a lawlike generalization is to be a universal, spatiotemporally unrestricted, and modally robust generalization. It is the legacy of logical empiricists that such generalization can be analyzed as a universal generalization of the form ∀x.(Fx→Gx). Since the logical empiricists, this analysis has been criticized and various alternatives have been proposed. One proposed analysis is that lawlike generalizations, and hence law statements, should be analyzed as generic generalizations (e.g. Drewery 1998, 2005; Nickel 2010; Claveau & Girard 2019). These accounts, however, endorse the assumption that law statements can be given a unified analysis and attempt to analyze law statements as generic generalizations in unified manner. In this thesis, while endorsing the suggestion that law statements are generic generalizations, I will challenge this assumption arguing that law statements should be divided into two distinct groups, the definitional laws and descriptive laws, which require distinct analyses. I will, then, provide an analysis of law statements on the basis of the works of Manfred Krifka and Yael Greenberg on definitional and descriptive generic generalizations.