Saturday, May 24, 2014

Bibliography on ceteris paribus Laws

Below is a bibliography on the specialist literature on ceteris paribus laws. Earman and Roberts (1999) is a good review of the modern debate, and they also argue that the laws of nature as described by physics are not ceteris paribus laws at all, and that .

One should note that the very existence of valid ceteris paribus laws in either the natural sciences or social sciences is vigorously disputed, and the recent debate includes a special issue of the philosophical journal Erkenntnis (57.3 [2002]) devoted to the whole controversy.

Some philosophers go so far as to argue that true ceteris paribus laws do not exist (Schiffer 1991; Earman and Roberts 1999; Earman, Roberts and Smith 2002; Woodward 2002), and others that the social sciences have no laws at all analogous to the laws of nature in the natural sciences (see Roberts 2004).

In contrast, those who defend ceteris paribus laws often contend that these laws are really counterfactual conditional statements (“if x, then y”).

No doubt there are many counterfactual conditionals that are meaningful and valid, and some that are not, and the question would then become: what ceteris paribus laws really are meaningful and valid? It does not follow, if one really accepts that ceteris paribus laws are conceptually valid in principle, that all postulated ceteris paribus laws – such certain laws in economics – really are valid and empirically meaningful. The issue remains an epistemological question, and one could argue that a number of alleged economic laws must be reformulated only as generalisations, often with numerous or significant exceptions.

Blaug, Mark. 1992. The Methodology of Economics, or, How Economists Explain (2nd edn.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Cartwright, Nancy. 1995. “Ceteris paribus Laws and Socio-Economic Machines,” Monist 78: 276–294.

Cartwright, Nancy. 2002. “In Favor of Laws that are not ceteris paribus after all,” Erkenntnis 57.3: 425–439.

De Marchi, Neil. 1988. “Popper and the LSE Economists,” in Neil De Marchi (ed.), The Popperian Legacy in Economics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 139–166.

Earman, John, Glymour, Clark and Sandra Mitchell. 2002. “Editorial,” Erkenntnis 57.3: 277–280.

Earman, John and Roberts, J. 1999. “‘Ceteris paribus,’ There is No Problem of Provisos,” Synthese 118.3: 439–478.

Earman, John, Roberts, John and Sheldon Smith. 2002. “Ceteris Paribus Lost,” Erkenntnis 57.3: 281–301.

Elgin, M. and E. Sober. 2002. “Cartwright on Explanation and Idealization,” Erkenntnis 57.3: 441–450.

Eliot, Christopher H. 2011. “Hempel’s Provisos and Ceteris Paribus Clauses,” Journal for General Philosophy of Science 42.2: 207–218.

Fodor, J. 1991. “You can fool some of the People all the Time, Everything else being equal: Hedged Laws and Psychological Explanations,” Mind 100: 19–34.

Glymour, Clark. 2002. “A Semantics and Methodology for Ceteris Paribus Hypotheses,” Erkenntnis 57.3: 395–405.

Hausman, Daniel M. 2003 [rev. 2012]. “Philosophy of Economics,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Hempel, Carl G. 1988. “Provisoes: A Problem concerning the Inferential Function of Scientific Theories,” Erkenntnis 28.2: 147–164.

Hempel, Carl G. 1988. “Provisoes: A Problem concerning the Inferential Function of Scientific Laws,” in A. Grunbaum and W. C. Salmon (eds.), The Limits of Deductivism. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 19–36.

Kaufer, E. 1997. “Reply to Persky,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 11.2: 190–191.

Kincaid, Harold. 2004. “There are Laws in the Social Sciences,” in C. Hitchcock (ed.), Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Science. Blackwell, Oxford. 168–185.

Lange, M. 1993. “Natural Laws and the Problem of Provisos,” Erkenntnis 38: 233–248.

Lange, M. 1993. “Lawlikeness,” Nous 27: 1-21.

Lange, Marc. 2002. “Who’s afraid of ceteris-paribus Laws? Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love them,” Erkenntnis 57.3: 407–423.

Lange, Marc. 2008. “Laws of Nature,” in Stathis Psillos and Martin Curd (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science. Routledge, London. 203–212.

Lipton, P. 1999. “All else being equal,” Philosophy 74: 155–168.

Mitchell, Sandra D. 2002. “Ceteris Paribus: An Inadequate Representation for Biological Contingency,” Erkenntnis 57.3: 329–350.

Morreau, M. 1999. “Other things being equal,” Philosophical Studies 96: 163–182.

Persky, Joseph. 1990. “Ceteris Paribus,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 4.2: 187–193.

Pietroski, P. and Rey, G. 1995. “When other things aren’t equal: Saving ceteris paribus Laws from Vacuity,” The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46: 81–110.

Reutlinger, A., Schurz, G. and A. Hüttemann. 2011. “Ceteris Paribus Laws,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Roberts, John T. 2004. “There are No Laws in the Social Sciences,” in C. Hitchcock (ed.), Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Science. Blackwell, Oxford. 151–167.

Rol, Menno. 2012. “On ceteris paribus Laws in Economics (and Elsewhere): Why do Social Sciences Matter to Each Other?,” Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 5.2: 27–53.

Rosenberg, Alexander. 1992. Economics: Mathematical Politics or Science of Diminishing Returns?. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill.

Schiffer, 1991. “Ceteris paribus Laws,” Mind 100: 1–17.

Schurz, Gerhard. 2002. “Ceteris Paribus Laws: Classification and Deconstruction,” Erkenntnis 57.3: 351–372.

Spohn, Wolfgang. 2002. “Laws, Ceteris Paribus Conditions, and the Dynamics of Belief,” Erkenntnis 57.3: 373–394.

Woodward, Jim. 2002. “There is no Such Thing as a ceteris paribus Law,” Erkenntnis 57.3: 303–328.


  1. Cet par is a means by which we think through issues. That's all. Like Keynes' kaleido-statics methodology:

    Only marginalists and Austrians think that they have some real validity.

    1. Sure, if a ceteris paribus proposition is purely abstract (that is, analytic a priori), then it is legitimate and useful in thought experiments.

      The trouble is when people use highly questionable ones that are supposed to have empirical content, but can't be tested in a straightforward way.