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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 37, Issue Supplement, 2012

Selected Papers from the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Jaegwon Kim
Pages 103-122

Against Laws in the Special Sciences

The traditional view of science holds that science is essentially nomothetic—that is, the defining characteristic of science is that it seeks to discover and formulate laws for the phenomena in its domain, and that laws are required for explanation and prediction. This paper advances the thesis that there are no laws in the special sciences, sciences other than fundamental physics, and that this does not impugn their status as sciences. Toward this end, two arguments are presented. The first begins with Donald Davidson’s argument against psychophysical laws and develops a more perspicacious general argument against special science laws. The second is a generalized and more explicitly motivated argument based on J. J. C. Smart’s claim that biology, unlike physics, has no laws.