Thesis ID: CBB001562214

Laws in the Special Sciences: A Comparative Study of Biological Generalizations (2002)


Elgin, Mehmet (Author)

University of Wisconsin at Madison
Sober, Elliott R.

Publication Date: 2002
Edition Details: Advisor: Sober, Elliott R.
Physical Details: 130 pp.
Language: English

The question of whether biology contains laws has important implications about the nature of science. Some philosophers believe that the legitimacy of the special sciences depends on whether they contain laws. In this dissertation, I defend the thesis that biology contains laws. In Chapter I, I discuss the importance of this problem and set the stage for my inquiry. In Chapter V, I summarize the results of Chapters II, III, and IV and I offer reasons why the position I advance should be preferred over the alternatives. In Chapter II, I argue that the epistemic functions of a priori biological laws in biology are the same as those of empirical laws in physics. I establish this claim by showing that zero force laws and singleton force laws in these sciences function in the same way. I conclude that the requirement that laws must be empirical is idle in connection with how laws operate in science. In Chapter III, I argue that even if there are ceteris paribus sentences, it is unlikely that there are ceteris paribus laws. If there are genuine ceteris paribus laws, then ceteris paribus should be a proper part of a law statement in which it occurs. I argue that if we interpret ceteris paribus in this way, the containing sentence cannot be a law because it does not satisfy a minimal condition for laws---i.e., ceteris paribus A 's are B's and ceteris paribus A's are not B's should not both be true. In Chapter IV, I argue that the reasons offered for the non-existence of empirical biological laws don't establish the intended conclusion. I, then, argue that the kinds of law we should expect to find in biology are biophysical laws. I defend this claim by providing a priori and a posteriori arguments. The a priori argument states that the complexity of a system is no reason to think that there are no laws about that system. The a posteriori argument states that current research in evolutionary ecology indicates the existence of biophysical laws.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 63 (2003): 3966. UMI order no. 3072848.

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Authors & Contributors
Laubichler, Manfred Dietrich
Hull, David L.
Hüttemann, Andreas
Ankeny, Rachel A.
Schaffner, Kenneth F.
Wagner, Günter P.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
European Romantic Review
Cambridge University
Franz Steiner Verlag
Alfred A. Knopf
Cambridge University Press
University of Chicago Press
Philosophy of biology
Philosophy of science
Natural laws
Kielmeyer, Carl Friedrich
Kant, Immanuel
Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von
Spencer, Herbert
Bateson, William
Rosenberg, Alexander
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
21st century
20th century
20th century, early
United States

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