Laws and Essences

Ratio (forthcoming 2005).

Abstract

Those who favour an ontology based on dispositions are thereby able to provide a
dispositional essentialist account of the laws of nature.1 In this paper I sketch the
dispositional essentialist account of laws (part I), before arguing that the dispositional
essentialist metaphysics provides a more attractive view of properties than does the
categoricalist alternative (part II).2 Since, on this view, the relation of a disposition to a
characteristic conditional is essential to its nature and not contingent, it follows that the
laws of nature are themselves metaphysically necessary. This consequence has been
taken by some to demonstrate the falsity of the dispositionalist account.3 I conclude by
arguing that the reasons one might give for thinking that laws are not necessary to not
stand up to scrutiny (part III).