Ideas from 'What is a Law of Nature?' by David M. Armstrong [1983], by Theme Structure

[found in 'What is a Law of Nature?' by Armstrong,D.M. [CUP 1985,0-521-31481-x]].

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1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 7. Limitations of Analysis
If you know what it is, investigation is pointless. If you don't, investigation is impossible
                        Full Idea: Paradox of Analysis:if we ask what sort of thing an X is, then either we know what an X is or we do not. If we know then there is no need to ask the question. If we do not know then there is no way to begin the investigation. It's pointless or impossible
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 01.2)
                        A reaction: [G.E. Moore is the source of this, somewhere] Plato worried that to get to know something you must already know it. Solving this requires the concept of a 'benign' circularity.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 7. Facts / b. Types of fact
Negative facts are supervenient on positive facts, suggesting they are positive facts
                        Full Idea: Negative facts appear to be supervenient upon the positive facts, which suggests that they are nothing more than the positive facts.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 10.3)
8. Modes of Existence / A. Relations / 4. Formal Relations / a. Types of relation
Nothing is genuinely related to itself
                        Full Idea: I believe that nothing is genuinely related to itself.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 10.7)
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 1. Nature of Properties
All instances of some property are strictly identical
                        Full Idea: A property ...is something which is strictly identical, strictly the same, in all its different instances.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.2)
                        A reaction: Some is gravitation one property, or an infinity of properties, for each of its values? What is the same between objects of different mass. I sort of believe in all the masses, but I'm not sure what 'mass' is. Abstraction, say I.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 6. Categorical Properties
Armstrong holds that all basic properties are categorical
                        Full Idea: I am against Armstrong's strong categoricalism, that is, the thesis that all basic properties are categorical.
                        From: report of David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983]) by Brian Ellis - The Metaphysics of Scientific Realism 3
                        A reaction: I certainly agree with this, as I cannot see where the power would come from to get the whole thing off the ground. Armstrong depends on universals to necessitate what happens, which I find very peculiar.
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 7. Against Powers
Dispositions exist, but their truth-makers are actual or categorical properties
                        Full Idea: It is not denied that statements attributing dispositions and/or powers to objects are often true. But the truth-makers or ontological ground for such statements must always be found in the actual, or categorical, properties of the objects involved.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 01.3)
                        A reaction: This is the big debate in the topic of powers. I love powers, but you always think there must be 'something' which has the power. Could reality entirely consist of powers? See Fetzer.
Actualism means that ontology cannot contain what is merely physically possible
                        Full Idea: Actualism ...debars us from admitting into our ontology the merely possible, not only the merely logically possible, but also the merely physically possible.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 01.3)
                        A reaction: This is the big metaphysical question for fans (like myself) of 'powers' in nature. Armstrong declares himself an Actualist. I take it as obvious that the actual world contains powers, but how are we to characterise them?
If everything is powers there is a vicious regress, as powers are defined by more powers
                        Full Idea: I believe reducing all universals to powers is involved in vicious regress. The power is what it is by the sort of actualisations it gives rise to in suitable sorts of circumstances. But they themselves can be nothing but powers...
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 08.3)
                        A reaction: [compressed wording] I don't see this problem. Anything postulated as fundamental is going to be baffling. Why are categorical properties superior to powers? Postulate basic powers (or basic empowered stuff), then build up.
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 1. Universals
Universals are just the repeatable features of a world
                        Full Idea: Universals can be brought into the spatio-temporal world, becoming simply the repeatable features of that world.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.2)
                        A reaction: I wish Armstrong wouldn't use the word 'universal', which has so much historical baggage. The world obviously has repeatable features, but does that mean that our ontology must include things called 'features'? Hm.
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 2. Need for Universals
Realist regularity theories of laws need universals, to pick out the same phenomena
                        Full Idea: A Realistic version of a Regularity theory of laws will have to postulate universals. How else will it be possible to say that the different instances of a certain uniformity are all instances of objectively the same phenomenon?
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 02.4)
                        A reaction: I disagree. We may (or may not) need properties, but they can be have a range. We just need stable language. We use one word 'red', even when the shade of redness varies. Non-realists presumably refer to sense-data.
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 3. Instantiated Universals
Universals are abstractions from their particular instances
                        Full Idea: Armstrong takes universals generally, and structural universals along with the rest, to be abstractions from their particular instances.
                        From: report of David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], p.83-4) by David Lewis - Against Structural Universals 'The pictorial'
                        A reaction: To me, 'abstracted' implies a process of human psychology, a way of thinking about the instances. I don't see how there can be an 'abstracted' relation which is a part of the external world. That makes his laws of nature human creations.
Past, present and future must be equally real if universals are instantiated
                        Full Idea: Past, present and future I take to be all and equally real. A universal need not be instantiated now.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.2)
                        A reaction: This is the price you must pay for saying that you only believe in universals which are instantiated.
Universals are abstractions from states of affairs
                        Full Idea: Universals are abstractions from states of affairs.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 7)
                        A reaction: I'm getting confused about Armstrong's commitments. He bases his whole theory on the existence of universals (repeatable features), but now says those are 'abstracted' from something else. Abstracted by us?
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / b. Individuation by properties
It is likely that particulars can be individuated by unique conjunctions of properties
                        Full Idea: For each particular it is likely that there exists at least one individuating conjunction of properties, that is, a conjunction of properties such that the particular instantiates this conjunction and nothing else does.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 02.3)
                        A reaction: Armstrong commits to a famous Leibniz view, but I don't see his grounds for it. There is nothing incoherent about nature churning out perfect replicas of things, such as quarks and electrons. Would we care if two pens were perfectly identical?
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 5. Self-Identity
The identity of a thing with itself can be ruled out as a pseudo-property
                        Full Idea: There is reason to rule out as pseudo-properties such things as the identity of a thing with itself.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.2)
                        A reaction: Good on you, David.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 5. Contingency
The necessary/contingent distinction may need to recognise possibilities as real
                        Full Idea: It may be that the necessary/contingent distinction is tied to a metaphysics which recognises possibility as a real something wider than actuality.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 11.2)
                        A reaction: Armstrong responds by trying to give an account of possibility in terms of 'combinations' from actuality. I think powers offer a much better strategy.
14. Science / C. Induction / 3. Limits of Induction
Induction aims at 'all Fs', but abduction aims at hidden or theoretical entities
                        Full Idea: Many philosophers of science have distinguished between 'simple induction' - the argument from observed Fs to all Fs - and the argument to hidden or theoretical entities (Peirce's 'abduction').
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.7)
                        A reaction: 'Abduction' is (roughly) the same is inference to the best explanation, of which I am a great fan.
14. Science / C. Induction / 5. Paradoxes of Induction / a. Grue problem
Unlike 'green', the 'grue' predicate involves a time and a change
                        Full Idea: The predicate 'grue' involves essential reference to a particular time, which 'green' does not. Also on the 'grue' hypothesis a change occurs in emeralds in a way that change does not occur on the 'green' hypothesis.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 04.5)
                        A reaction: I'm inclined to think that comparing 'grue' with 'green' is a category mistake. 'Grue' is a behaviour. Armstrong says this is no objection, because Goodman's argument is purely formal.
Science suggests that the predicate 'grue' is not a genuine single universal
                        Full Idea: It is plausible to say, on the basis of total science, that 'grue' is a predicate to which no genuine, that is, unitary, universal corresponds.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.7)
14. Science / C. Induction / 5. Paradoxes of Induction / b. Raven paradox
The raven paradox has three disjuncts, confirmed by confirming any one of them
                        Full Idea: We could rewrite the generalisation as For all x, ((x is a raven and x is black) v (x is not a raven and x is black) v (x is not a raven and x is not black)). Instances of any one of the three disjuncts will do as confirmation.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 04.3)
                        A reaction: A nice clarification.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / a. Types of explanation
A good reason for something (the smoke) is not an explanation of it (the fire)
                        Full Idea: A good reason for P is not necessarily an explanation of P. The presence of smoke is a good reason for thinking that fire is present. But it is not an explanation of the presence of fire.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 04.2)
                        A reaction: This may be an equivocation on 'the reason for'. Smoke is a reason for thinking there is a fire, but no one would propose it as a reason for the fire. If the reason for the fire was arson, that would seem to explain it as well.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / e. Lawlike explanations
To explain observations by a regular law is to explain the observations by the observations
                        Full Idea: Given the Regularity theory, the explanatory element seems to vanish. For to say that all the observed Fs are Gs because all the Fs are Gs involves explaining the observations in terms of themselves.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.7)
                        A reaction: This point cries out, it is so obvious (once spotted). Tigers are ferocious because all tigers are ferocious (see?).
14. Science / D. Explanation / 3. Best Explanation / a. Best explanation
Best explanations explain the most by means of the least
                        Full Idea: The best explanation explains the most by means of the least. Explanation unifies.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 05.4)
                        A reaction: To get unification, you need to cite the diversity of what is explained, and not the mere quantity. The force of gravity unifies because it applies to such a diversity of things.
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 1. Abstract Thought
Each subject has an appropriate level of abstraction
                        Full Idea: To every subject, its appropriate level of abstraction.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 01.2)
                        A reaction: Mathematics rises through many levels of abstraction. Economics can be very concrete or very abstract. It think it is clearer to talk of being 'general', rather than 'abstract'.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / e. The One
We can't deduce the phenomena from the One
                        Full Idea: No serious and principled deduction of the phenomena from the One has ever been given, or looks likely to be given.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 11)
                        A reaction: This seems to pick out the best reason why hardly anybody (apart from Jonathan Schaffer) takes the One seriously.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Types of cause
Absences might be effects, but surely not causes?
                        Full Idea: Lacks and absences could perhaps by thought of as effects, but we ought to be deeply reluctant to think of them as causes.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 10.4)
                        A reaction: Odd. So we allow that they exist (as effects), but then deny that they have any causal powers?
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 1. Laws of Nature
A universe couldn't consist of mere laws
                        Full Idea: A universe could hardly consist of laws and nothing else.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.4)
                        A reaction: Hm. Discuss. How does a universe come into existence, if there are no laws to guide its creation?
Science depends on laws of nature to study unobserved times and spaces
                        Full Idea: The scientist trying to establish the geography and history of the unobserved portion of the universe must depend upon what he takes to be the laws of the universe.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 01.1)
                        A reaction: This does seem to be the prime reason why we wish to invoke 'laws', but we could just as well say that we have to rely on induction. Spot patterns, then expect more of the same. Spot necessities? Mathematics is very valuable here, of course.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 2. Types of Laws
Oaken conditional laws, Iron universal laws, and Steel necessary laws
                        Full Idea: Three degress of law: 1) 'Oaken laws' where all Fs that aren't Hs are Gs; 2) 'Iron' laws where all Fs are Gs; and 3) 'Steel' laws where all Fs must be Gs.
                        From: report of David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 10.4) by PG - Db (ideas)
                        A reaction: [My summary of Armstrong's distinction] One response is to say that all laws are actually Oaken - see Mumfor and Mumford/Lill Anjum. It's all ceteris paribus.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 3. Laws and Generalities
Newton's First Law refers to bodies not acted upon by a force, but there may be no such body
                        Full Idea: Newton's First Law of Motion tells us what happens to a body which is not acted upon by a force. Yet it may be that the antecedent of the law is never instantiated. It may be that every body that there is, is acted upon by some force.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 02.7)
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / a. Regularity theory
Regularities are lawful if a second-order universal unites two first-order universals
                        Full Idea: Armstrong's theory holds that what makes certain regularities lawful are second-order states of affairs N(F,G) in which the two ordinary first-order universals F and G are related by a certain dyadic second-order universal N.
                        From: report of David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983]) by David Lewis - New work for a theory of universals 'Laws and C'
                        A reaction: [see Lewis's footnote] I take the view (from Shoemaker and Ellis) that laws of nature are just plain regularities which arise from the hierarchy of natural kinds. We don't need a commitment to 'universals'.
A naive regularity view says if it never occurs then it is impossible
                        Full Idea: It is a Humean uniformity that no race of ravens is white-feathered. Hence, if the Naive Regularity analysis of law is correct, it is a law that no race of ravens is white-feathered, that is, such a race is physically impossible. A most unwelcome result.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 02.6)
                        A reaction: Chapters 2-4 of Armstrong are a storming attack on the regularity view of laws of nature, and this idea is particularly nice. Laws must refer to what could happen, not what happens to happen.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 5. Laws from Universals
The laws of nature link properties with properties
                        Full Idea: There is an utterly natural idea that the laws of nature link properties with properties.
                        From: David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983], 06.3)
                        A reaction: Put it this way: given that properties are expressions of invariant powers, the interaction of two properties will (ceteris paribus) be invariant, and laws are just invariances in natural behaviour.
Rather than take necessitation between universals as primitive, just make laws primitive
                        Full Idea: My own view is simple: the laws of nature ought to be accepted as ontologically primitive. …They are preferable in point of familiarity to such necessitation relations between universals.
                        From: comment on David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983]) by Tim Maudlin - The Metaphysics within Physics 1.4
                        A reaction: I think you make natures of things primitive, and reduce laws to regularities and universals to resemblances. Job done. Natures are even more 'familiar' as primitives than laws are.
Armstrong has an unclear notion of contingent necessitation, which can't necessitate anything
                        Full Idea: The two criticisms levelled against Armstrong are that it is unclear what his relation of contingent necessitation is, and that it is unclear how it is able to necessitate anything.
                        From: comment on David M. Armstrong (What is a Law of Nature? [1983]) by Alexander Bird - Nature's Metaphysics 3.1.2
                        A reaction: I suppose someone has to explore the middle ground between the mere contingencies of Humean regularities and the strong necessities of scientific essentialism. The area doesn't, however, look promising.