Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Whewell on Laws of Nature

What we call a general law is, in truth, a form of expression including a number of facts of like kind. The facts are separate; the unity of view by which we associate them, the character of generality and of law, resides in those relations which are the object of the intellect. The law once apprehended by us, takes in our minds the place of the facts themselves, and is said to govern or determine them, because it determines our anticipations of what they will be. But we cannot, it would seem, conceive a law, founded on such intelligible relations, to govern and determine the facts themselves, any otherwise than by supposing also an intelligence by which these relations are contemplated, and these consequences realized. We cannot then represent to ourselves the universe governed by general laws otherwise than by conceiving an intelligent and conscious Deity, by whom these laws were originally contemplated, established, and applied.

William Whewell, Astronomy and General Physics, Considered with reference to Natural Theology (1852) pp. 188-189.

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