Volume 5, Issue 1, 2005
Popper on Laws and Counterfactuals
According to the received view, the regularity “All F’s are G” is a real law of nature only if it supports a counterfactual conditional “If x were an F (but actually it is not), it would be a G”. Popper suggested a different approach -- universal generalisations differ from accidental generalisations in the structure of their terms. Terms in accidental generalisations are closed, extensional and terms in laws of nature are open, strictly universal, intensional. But Popper failed to develop this point and used a mistaken and unnatural interpretation of counterfactual assumptions in order to defend the view that both laws of nature and accidental generalisations support counterfactuals. The idea that terms in laws of nature stand for intensions was developed twenty-five years later in the so called DTA theory, which explains laws of nature as relations between properties.