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Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy$
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Walter Ott

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570430

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570430.001.0001

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(p.247) Conclusion
Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy

Walter Ott (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter returns to one of the questions with which this book began: Why does the conception of causal necessity as logical necessity so outlive the notion of powers on which it was based? The question itself is wrong. For the Aristotelian conception of power was not discarded so much as reinvented during the modern period, issuing in the cognitive and geometrical models of causation and hence in the top‐down and bottom‐up conceptions of laws. It is a mistake to think of the scholastic concept of power as lingering on without justification, long after it was unmoored by the “new” philosophy. Instead, it was adopted and transformed. This chapter draws together the themes of the book and extends its argument to the contemporary debate over laws of nature. Roughly, the argument is that the top‐down conception of laws is unintelligible in the absence of the theological underpinnings moderns like Descartes provide. It should thus be jettisoned in a version of a bottom‐up theory, one which is not hamstrung by Hume's unreasonable limitations on intentionality.

Keywords:   nomological necessity, D. M. Armstrong, Humean supervenience, top‐down conception

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