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A traditional conception of a law of nature views a hypothesis holds necessarily when it takes the logical form:

(P1) All A's are B's

(P2) O is an A

(C) Therefore O is a B.

The large number of external inputs to models proposed in the social sciences often leads to situations where P1 and P2 are true, but C is false. Thus theorists have proposed that laws in the social sciences should be qualified with a ceteris paribus clause (all other things being equal). An objection to this strategy suggests that this leads to a tautology of the form:

All A's are B's, unless not.

My question is: how can one respond to this objection?

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    "The large number of external inputs to models proposed in the social sciences often leads to situations where P1 and P2 are true, but C is false." The obvious guess is that P1 may not actually be true at all, but rather that something like 'the vast majority of As are also Bs' or 'A-ness is strongly correlated with B-ness' is more accurate. Of course, one could attempt to classify the exceptions, to try to demonstrate that 'All As which are not Es, are Bs', but in practise I would suspect that the Es may prove various enough to spoil the pretense of a simple theory. – Niel de Beaudrap Mar 1 '15 at 17:04
  • 'All As which are not Es, are Bs'. Good formulation thank you. However another aspect of a law should be explanatory so it should take the form of a conjuction such as 'If ¬Es then As are Bs'. This also supports counterfactual conditionals of the form 'If ¬Es then As are ¬Bs'. – Michael Mar 1 '15 at 18:17
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    Could you elaborate in your question how the ceteris paribus clause leads to a tautology? This would improve your question! – DBK Mar 11 '15 at 21:19
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I think you have in mind probabilistic inferences, where P1 is not a deductive certainty, but an observational one. In such cases, the conclusion C (O is a B) is stated with some probability/confidence, but it's not certain either.

More info on this can be found at

and the references therein.

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