Nancy Cartwright and Keith Ward (eds.), Rethinking Order: After the Laws of Nature (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016)
This book presents a radical new picture of natural order. The Newtonian idea of a cosmos ruled by universal and exceptionless laws has been superseded; replaced by a conception of nature as a realm of diverse powers, potencies, and dispositions, a ‘dappled world’. There is order in nature, but it is more local, diverse, piecemeal, open, and emergent than Newton imagined.
In each chapter expert authors expound the historical context of the idea of laws of nature, and explore the diverse sorts of order actually presupposed by work in physics, biology, and the social sciences. They consider how human freedom might be understood, and explore how Newton’s idea of a ‘universal designer’ might be revised, in this new context.
They argue that there is not one unified totalizing program of science, aiming at the completion of one closed causal system. We live in an ordered universe, but we need to rethink the classical idea of the ‘laws of nature’ in a more dynamic and creatively diverse way.