Singular Causation without Dispositions

Theoria 26 (1):35-50 (2011)
Abstract
Singular causation may be best understood within a dispositionalist framework. Although the details of just how a claim that this is in fact the case have not yet been fully worked out, different philosophers have made some positive contributions in this direction. In opposition to such suggestions, I claim that any possible account of singular causation in terms of real, irreducible, dispositions contains unresolvable flaws in its metaphysical foundations.First, I present two main constituents that I take to be necessary for any possible dispositional account of singular causation: (i) the possibility of causation without laws, which is a necessary condition for causal singularism, and (ii) a conception of dispositions as real, irreducible entities or properties. This results in aminimal dispositionalist view of singular causation. Second, I argue that, even if minimal, this view already has to face up to serious difficulties: (i) an ontological problem concerning the individuating conditions for dispositions in causal contexts, (ii) an instance of infinite regress, (iii) the loss of the relational character ofcausation and, as a corollary, (iv) the loss of the asymmetry of causation. Third, I argue that dispositionalists tend to misrepresent causal modality when proposing and solving a modal choice between Humeanism and dispositionalism that is becoming commonplace but which, I claim, is in fact a false choice. Finally, Isketch a possible picture of causality without laws and without dispositions
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