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Theda Perdue Distinguished Professor

112A Caldwell Hall

Marc Lange specializes in philosophy of science and related areas of metaphysics and epistemology, including parts of the philosophy of physics, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of mathematics. He is the author of the blockbuster bestseller Laws and Lawmakers: Science, Metaphysics, and the Laws of Nature (Oxford, 2009), which is soon to be a major motion picture. More recently, he has written the iridescently lyrical “Because Without Cause: Non-Causal Explanations in Science and Mathematics” (Oxford, 2016). Earlier he wrote the gripping page-turner An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics: Locality, Fields, Energy, and Mass (Blackwell, 2002) and the steamy, heart-rending Natural Laws in Scientific Practice (Oxford, 2000). Some of his most compelling recent papers are the exhilarating romp “The Most Famous Equation,” The Journal of Philosophy (2001);  the thrilling “Baseball, Pessimistic Inductions, and the Turnover Fallacy,” Analysis (2002); the ominous “Who’s Afraid of Ceteris-Paribus Laws? Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Them,” Erkenntnis (2002); the suspenseful, flamboyant “Would Direct Realism Resolve the Classical Problem of Induction?”, Noûs (2004); the madcap “Ecological Laws: What Would They Be and Why Would They Matter?,” Oikos [The Journal of the Nordic Ecological Society] (2005);  the momentous “How Can Instantaneous Velocity Fulfill Its Causal Role?” Philosophical Review (2005); the rousing A Counterfactual Analysis of the Concepts of Logical Truth and Necessity,” Philosophical Studies (2005); the tenderly ironic “How to Account for the Relation Between Chancy Facts and Deterministic Laws,”Mind (2006); the poignant “Laws and Meta-Laws of Nature: Conservation Laws and Symmetries,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics (2007); the heart-stopping “Why Contingent Facts Cannot Necessities Make”, Analysis (2008); the wistful, Proustian “Could the Laws of Nature Change?”, Philosophy of Science (2008); the raw, touching “Why Proofs by Mathematical Induction are Generally Not Explanatory”,Analysis (2009); the rollicking “Must the Fundamental Laws of Physics Be Complete?Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2009); the scintillating “Dimensional Explanations”, Noûs (2009); the epic “What are Mathematical Coincidences (and Why Does It Matter)?,” Mind (2010); the high-wire act of storytelling “A Tale of Two Vectors,” Dialectica (2009); the elemental and evocative “Conservation Laws in Scientific Explanations: Constraints or Coincidences?” Philosophy of Science (2011); the at once realistic and phantasmagorical “‘There Sweep Great General Principles Which All the Laws Seem To Follow’,” Oxford Studies in Metaphysics (2012); the ripsnortingly rhetorical “Did Einstein Really Believe that Principle Theories are Explanatorily Powerless?”, Perspectives on Science (2014); the sober yet tumultuous “Really Statistical Explanations and Genetic Drift“, Philosophy of Science(2013); the by turns cosmic and gritty “What Makes a Scientific Explanation Distinctively Mathematical?,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (2013); the up-tempo but deeply felt “Depth and Explanation in Mathematics,” Philosophia Mathematica (2014); the taut and bewitching “Aspects of Mathematical Explanation: Symmetry, Unity, and Salience” (2014); the unflinching and bittersweet “Explanation, Existence, and Natural Properties in Mathematics – A Case Study: Desargues’ Theorem”, Dialectica (2015); the relentless yet pixielike “Is Kantian Projectivism the Only Hope for Grounding the Principal Principle? (No.),” The Monist (2017); the searingly honest and pleasantly humid “Reply to my critics: On explanations by constraint” (for a symposium on my book, Because Without Cause), Metascience (2018); the astonishing and sucker-punch tragic “Transitivity, Self-Explanation, and the Circularity Argument against Humean Accounts of Natural Law,” Synthese (2018); the positive instance of Betteridge’s Law of Headlines “What Would Normative Necessity Be?”, The Journal of Philosophy (2018); the potent and harrowing “Mathematical Explanations That Are Not Proofs”, Erkenntnis (2018); the joyous and inevitable “Are There both Causal and Non-Causal Explanations of a Rocket’s Acceleration?,” Perspectives on Science (2019); the hurtling, adamant, and operatic “The Principle of Virtual Work, Counterfactuals, and the Avoidance of Physics,” European Journal for Philosophy of Science (2019); the literally unputdownable “Ground and Explanation in Mathematics,” Philosophers’ Imprint (2019); the essential summer-read “What Inference to the Best Explanation is Not: A Reply to Roche and Sober’s Screening-Off Challenge to IBE,” Teorema (2020); the brittle, heat-struck, ferocious “Asymmetries as a Challenge to Counterfactual Accounts of Non-Causal Explanation,” Synthese (2021); the necessary and sometimes powerful “What Could Mathematics Be for it to Function in Distinctively Mathematical Scientific Explanations?”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (2021); the convivial but spring-loaded “Inference to the Best Explanation is an Important Form of Reasoning in Mathematics,” The Mathematical Intelligencer (2021); the buttinskian yet dill-scented “Challenges Facing Counterfactual Accounts of Explanation in MathematicsPhilosophia Mathematica (2022); the incendiary, raucous, lurid “Putting Explanation Back Into ‘Inference to the Best Explanation’,”Noûs (2022); the rhapsodic, melancholic, and wicked “A New Circularity in Explanations by Humean Laws of Nature,” Philosophical Studies (2023); the pulse-pounding “How to Make the World Safe for Autonomy; or, How to Fodor-Kitcher an Albert-Loewer,” in Rethinking the Concept of Law of Nature (2022); the dangerous household item “In Defense of Really Statistical Explanations,” Synthese (2022); the crinkum-crankum-filled “Against Probabilistic Measures of Explanatory Quality,” Philosophy of Science (2022); the urgent and ultimately uplifting “Inference to the Best Explanation as Supporting the Expansion of Mathematicians’ Ontological Commitments,” Synthese (2022); the fugitive, volatile “Running it up the Flagpole to see if Anyone Salutes: A Response to Woodward on Causal and Explanatory Asymmetries” (with Katie Elliott), Theoria (2022); the necessary and sometimes powerful “Explanation by Constraint: Not Just in Physics,” International Journal in the Philosophy of Science (2023); the nautilus-shaped “A New Circularity in Explanations by Humean Laws of Nature,” Philosophical Studies (2023); the Taylor-Swift-meets-Roosterhead-McGinty “How Simplicity Can Be A Virtue in Philosophical Theory-Choice,” Erkenntnis (2024); the droll and desolate “A False Dichotomy in Denying Explanatoriness Any Role in Confirmation,Noûs (2024); and the hydra-headed, breathless, incantatoryThe End of Diseases,” Philosophical Topics (2007). (Forthcoming luminous papers available upon request.)

Curriculum Vitae

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Wi-Phi video on Hempel’s paradox of confirmation Interview by 3:AM Magazine

Philosophy of physics book recommendations

From Alexander Bird’s review of Laws and Lawmakers in The Philosophical Review (2014): “Lange writes with restrained elegance, but this does not disguise the fact that his book is in many places hard intellectual work. That reflects the fact that this is a work of highest intellectual caliber, not unlike important advances in mathematics, that happens to deal with difficult material. It is to Lange’s credit both that his cleverness produced such ideas and that he makes it as easy as he can for the reader to follow them. The reader’s effort will be amply repaid.”

From some reviews of Because Without Cause: I think that even the (partially or totally) unconvinced reader will agree on the exceptional quality and ‘mighty’ character of Because Without Cause. With this book Lange really raises the bar for those involved in the study of explanation(s) in science and in mathematics. (Molinini in Philosophia Mathematica) Lange’s book is the ideal starting point for building further bridges between philosophical debates — inside and outside of philosophy of science — that are largely disconnected: work on explanations in science, mathematics, and philosophy. … Even if one is ultimately not convinced by Lange’s pluralism, any other approach to non-causal and causal explanations (such as monism and particularism) will have to be developed in response to Lange’s splendid work. (Reutlinger in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews) This is a tremendous book. It brings together and synthesises Marc Lange’s highly original work over the past decade on non-causal explanation in science and mathematics. Like much of Lange’s oeuvre, it represents naturalistic metaphysics of science that draws inspiration and support from a wealth of detailed, carefully researched examples from the sciences, going back to the early nineteenth century and beyond. … The way in which these examples are coupled with open-minded—dare I say adventurous—metaphysics of modality makes for an exciting and thought-provoking read. (Saatsi in Metascience) It exemplifies the methodology of integrating history and philosophy of science to full effect. Almost every example, of literally dozens, is new to the discussion and shows both careful attention to historical detail and impressive familiarity with the finer points of the relevant mathematics and physics. … It is a fully prepared feast of new material for philosophers, especially but not only philosophers of science, to dive into, argue against, add to, refine, or apply to further discussions. (Andersen in Mind)