On the Metaphysics of Least Action

In this paper we discuss the compatibility of Alexander Bird's dispositional essentialism with one of our most fundamental physical principles - the principle of least action. Joel Katzav argues that this principle presupposes the contingency of its holding (that is, it presupposes that the system could have followed paths other than that which minimises action), and that this is ruled out by dispositional essentialism. However, Bird argues that only the logical possibility of paths different to the actual path followed is required, and as dispositional essentialism only rules out the metaphysical possibility, Katzav's argument fails. Although we accept Bird's response, on the face of it he is still open to a number of objections; in particular, it looks as though the actual paths being those that minimise the action of the system would be simply a cosmic coincidence, as even if there were a 'principle of least action' disposition, each particular would have to instantiate it contingently. In this paper we discuss what kind of disposition would be required to explain this fundamental principle, and conclude that if one particular instantiates it, it is metaphysically necessary that it be instantiated by all particulars in that world; it turns out that the cosmic coincidence is not so cosmic after all, and so Bird's dispositional essentialism is not threatened.
Keywords Dispositional Essentialism  Alexander Bird  The Principle of Least Action  Brian Ellis  Powers
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