Volume 12, Issue 1, 2015
A Journal of Analytic Scholasticism
Necessary laws? Seifert vs. Oderberg
I discuss Josef Seifert, a realist phenomenologist, and David Oderberg, an Aristotelian. Both endorse essences, understood as objective quiddities. Both argue that no (a posteriori) law of nature is strongly (metaphysically) necessary: i.e. true in every possible world. But they disagree about weak necessity of laws: Seifert argues that no law is true in every possible world in which its referring expressions are non-empty, while Oderberg argues that some (indeed, any) is. I restate, relate, and review reasons of both authors for each of those theses. Seifert’s reasons include God’s ability to do miracles, conceivability of counterinstances to laws, and many others. Oderberg’s reasons include dependence of laws on particulars, depiction of laws as truths about properties necessarily connected with essences, and explanation of persistent regularities by means of that necessary connection. I argue that no reason of either Seifert or Oderberg is convincing, as its stands. But I also argue that given God and his ability to do miracles, the idea of “meaningful” but non-necessary connection between essences — an idea endorsed but insuffi ciently utilized by Seifert — is a better essentialist explanation of persistent regularities. This explanation implies that no law is necessary, be it weakly or strongly.