Organon F

Volume 27, August 2020, Issue 3, Pages 325–345

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article

Physical Constants as Identifiers of Modern Universal Laws of Nature

Orli Dahan 


I argue that in modern algebraic-formulated science the ‘physical constant’ can be understood, for practical purposes, as an ‘identifier’ of a universal law of nature. This identifying role is possible because the concept of ‘physical constant’ fulfills the same need for universality, stability, and fundamentality (as universal laws) for increasing the epistemic value of a scientific theory. This can be demonstrated in two different ways. The first involves a thought experiment envisioning science without physical constants, which appears to be a science of local and particular laws. The second is the observation that physical constants mostly emerge as components in an algebraic formulation of universal laws, but not in the algebraic formulation of particular laws. This observation about the link between physical constants and universal laws of nature, if correct, makes two contributions. First, it clarifies, at least partially, the ambiguity in the use (and the absence) of the concept ‘law’ in contemporary science. Second, it can help in distinguishing between a universal law and a particular law, while avoiding one of the abiding philosophical problems regarding laws of nature—the problem of the ceteris-paribus criterion for a generalization.


Law of nature; universal law; particular law; physical constant; ceteris-paribus generalization; strict generalizations.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


Orli Dahan


Tel-Hai College


Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tel-Hai College, Upper Galilee, 12208, Israel


About this article


18 January 2019


3 December 2019

Published online

20 December 2019


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Dahan, O. (2020). Physical Constants as Identifiers of Modern Universal Laws of Nature. Organon F27(3), 325–345.


Dahan, Orli. 2020. "Physical Constants as Identifiers of Modern Universal Laws of Nature." Organon F 27 (3): 325–345. 


Dahan, O.  (2020). Physical Constants as Identifiers of Modern Universal Laws of Nature. Organon F, 27(3), pp. 325–345.

Copyright information

© Orli Dahan

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