A Logical Study of Laws of Nature

This is the thesis completed in 1991 for the degree of Master of Arts in Philosophy. The Chinese title 《规律的逻辑研究》 is literally A Logical Study of Laws of Nature. The word "规律" refers to laws of nature in the thesis, not to be confused with natural laws. Further, unlike in many other languages where "law" or equivalent could mean "legal law", the Chinese word "规律" specifically refers to "law(s) of nature" or occasionally "law(s) in science".

On the cover page of the thesis are certain routine inventory items of curious historical interest, such as "自然辩证法" or "Dialectics of Nature" for the Division in the Philosophy Department, later renamed to the more appropriate "Philosophy of Science". But an even more bizarre term on the cover is "化学哲学" or "Philosophy of Chemistry" for Focus of Research. See the footnote for an interesting story.

The thesis is broken down as follows:
    一、历史回顾及分析 (I. Historical Review and Analysis)
        1、赫拉克利特 (1. Heraclitus)
        2、休谟 (2. Hume)
        3、康德 (3. Kant)
        4、经典马克思主义者 (4. Classical Marxists)
        5、现代西方哲学 (5. Modern Western Philosophy)
    二、规律的逻辑研究 (II. A Logical Study of Laws of Nature)
        1、引言 (1. Introduction)
        2、规律的客观性和规律陈述 (2. Objectivity of Laws and Law Statements)
        3、规律的内在必然性 (3. Intrinsic Necessity of Laws)
        4、规律的普遍性 (4. Universality of Laws)
        5、规律的历史性问题 (5. Historicity of Laws)
        6、人对规律的主观能动性  (6. Man's Initiative on Laws)

In Part I of the thesis, I reviewed western studies on laws, such as law-statements understood as counter-factual statements. (According to my comprehensive literature search, I was most likely the first one to introduce this notion to the Chinese academic community.) Literature referenced or reviewed included those as late as 1991, as a result of frequent trips to the National Library of China in Beijing and long wait time for the librarians to bring out requested books and journals, and heavy reliance on The Philosopher’s Index in paper format. (What a fresh memory of the pre-Internet days!)

The overall design of the original research, which is in Part II, is such that arguments are placed in a language-to-reality mapping (except for the argument for objectivity, which I think is merely believed). A law is the projection into reality of the statement in language representing the relationship A → B (i.e. A implies B, or if A, then B). Thus, it is proved, as an example, in Sec. 5 of Part II, that laws do not have historicity, because the law is only A → B (line 1), i.e. the major premise that pertains to universals, in the following syllogism

A → B  (1)
A      (2)
B      (3)
where A (line 2), the minor premise involving specific particulars, is the condition under which the law is borne out, not the law itself. A's existence is indeed time-dependent (having historicity) and even location-dependent, but that of the relationship i.e. the law A → B itself is not. There had been incessant debate on whether a law had historicity in China. I believe most debaters were confused about the logic and mistakenly considered A as the law, arguing that "when A does not exist, B does not, therefore the law is conditional", not realizing that their referent of "law" was A, not the implying relationship A → B.

Now the full download of the thesis, in Chinese (5.2 MB in size): 规律的逻辑研究


note From the very beginning as a graduate student recruited into this department division with such an eccentric name ("Philosophy of Chemistry"), I was searching for a proper subject to be considered a genuine philosophical problem in chemistry in spite of overwhelming evidence for lack of such, unlike in such fields as physics. After weeks of brain-racking, my buddy Huang Xiangyun and I had a "fascinating" finding, namely the circular logic in the Chinese textbook definition of "chemistry": "chemistry is the science that studies molecules", and yet "a molecule is the smallest particle that has chemical properties". The result was a long article that attempted to break this circle and define "chemistry" properly and consistently. Sadly, almost as expected though, everybody, including our advisor, and of course sundries of conference organizers, turned a deaf ear to this work, and the manuscript had long been lost.

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