All Else Being Equal

Peter Lipton 


Most laws are ceteris paribus (cp) laws: they say not that all Fs are G but only that All Fs are G all else being equal. Most philosophical accounts of laws, however, have focused on strict laws. This paper considers how some of the standard philosophical problems about laws change when we switch attention from strict to cp laws and what special problems these laws raise. It is argued that some cp laws do not simply reflect the complexity of the world and the limitations of our minds. Correctly interpreted, they reveal the simplicity that underlies the complexity, a simplicity that it is without our cognitive powers to grasp.