Two approaches to elevating certain laws of nature over others have come to prominence recently. On the one hand, according to the meta-laws approach, there are meta-laws, laws which relate to laws as those laws relate to particular facts. On the other hand, according to the modal, or non-absolutist, approach, some laws are necessary in a stricter sense than others. Both approaches play an important role in current research, questioning the ‘orthodoxy’ represented by the leading philosophical theories of natural laws—Humeanism, the DTA view, dispositional essentialism and primitivism.
This paper clarifies the relations between these two emerging approaches, as well as their applicability to physical laws and the status of the challenges they pose for standard theories of laws of nature. We first argue that, despite some significant similarities between the two approaches (especially in the context of Lange’s counterfactual account of laws), they are in general distinct and largely independent of each other. Then, we argue that the support for meta-laws from physical theory and practice is more questionable than usually presented.