Tuomas E. Tahko

The Modal Status of Laws: In Defence of a Hybrid View

Three popular views regarding the modal status of the laws of nature are discussed: Humean Supervenience, nomic necessitation, and scientific/dispositional essentialism. These views are examined especially with regard to their take on the apparent modal force of laws and their ability to explain that modal force. It will be suggested that Humean Supervenience and the nomic necessitation approach struggle to explain the modal force of laws, whereas scientific/dispositional essentialism fares slightly better. However, none of the three views, at least in their strongest form, can be maintained if some laws are metaphysically necessary, but others are metaphysically contingent. Some reasons for thinking that such variation in the modal status of laws exists will be presented, with reference to physics. This drives us towards a fourth, hybrid view, according to which there are both necessary and contingent laws. The prospects for such a view are studied.

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