So I was looking over Dan’s reconstruction of Tooley’s argument below, and I’m still somewhat worried about its validity.
Dan mentioned that I thought there might be some funny business with premises (3) and (10) (on his first reconstruction):
(3) It is a nomological truth that all salt, when in water, dissolves.
(10) It is true that if this piece of salt were in water and were not dissolving, it would not be in the vicinity of a piece of gold.
Dan’s certainly right that there’s no straight-up contradiction here (like there would be if (10) was stating a material conditional). However, something still feels very odd about the line of argumentation being taken. What originally bothered me was the fact that, in (10), we are using a putative law to support a counterfactual about what would happen in a situation in which that law (or, rather, the law from which it is derived) is violated. And I’m not convinced that any law can support a counterfactual like this.
This is a problem because Tooley is trying to draw a distinction between two classes of nomological truths (the laws proper and the logical consequences of laws). He is arguing that the second class cannot support certain counterfactuals which the first class can – and that, therefore, they must be treated differently. However, if he demonstrates this by pointing to a certain class of counterfactuals which are not only problematic for the second class, but for the first class as well, then he’s failed to draw the distinction.
So, I’ve been convinced by Dan that Tooley’s argument demonstrates that nomological truths like (L) all salt, when in water and near gold, dissolves in water. have difficulty supporting certain counterfactuals. However, I haven’t been convinced that laws proper don’t face the very same difficulty. On my understanding of things, if I can show that a plain jane law faces similar difficulties with the same kind of counterfactual, then I will have undermined Tooley’s distinction.