For the last several decades, dispositionalproperties have been one of the main topics in metaphysics. Still, however, there is little agreement among contemporary metaphysicians on the nature of dispositionalproperties. Apparently, though, the majority of them have reached the consensus that dispositional ascriptions cannot be analysed in terms of simple counterfactual conditionals. In this paper it will be brought to light that this consensus is wrong. Specifically, I will argue that the simple conditional analysis (...) of dispositions, which is generally thought to be dead, is in fact an adequate analysis of dispositions. I will go on to discuss Mumford’s view of dispositions from the perspective of the simple conditional analysis of dispositions. (shrink)
An analysis of problematic dispositional predicates like 'soluble' is presented. The analysis attempts to combine cogent features of opposed previous analyses of Carnap and Bergmann, while avoiding problematic features of both. The suggestion that there is an ambiguity in negations of assertions of dispositionalproperties, and a consequent distinction between "not soluble" and "insoluble," lies at the core of the solution.
This essay presents a model-theoretic account of dispositionalproperties, according to which dispositions are not ordinary properties of real entities; dispositions capture the behavior of abstract, idealized models. This account has several payoffs. First, it saves the simple conditional analysis of dispositions. Second, it preserves the general connection between dispositions and regularities, despite the fact that some dispositions are not grounded in actual regularities. Finally, it brings together the analysis and the explanation of dispositions under a unified (...) framework. (shrink)
One controversial position in the debate over dispositional and categorical properties maintains that our concepts of these properties are the result of partially considering unitary properties that are both dispositional and categorical. As one of its defenders (Heil 2005, p. 351) admits, this position is typically met with “incredulous stares”. In this paper, I examine whether such a reaction is warranted. This thesis about properties is an instance of what I call “the Partial Consideration (...) Strategy”—i.e., the strategy of claiming that what were formerly thought of as distinct entities are actually a unified entity, partially considered. By evaluating its use in other debates, I uncover a multi-layered prima facie case against the use of the Partial Consideration Strategy in the dispositional/categorical properties debate. In closing, I describe how the Partial Consideration Strategy can be reworked in a way that would allow it to sidestep this prima facie case. (shrink)
Metaphysicians who hold that there is an ontological distinction between two kinds of fundamental natural properties assume that properties are dispositional or non-dispositional necessarily. In contrast to this, I suggest that one can admit the existence of fundamental contingently dispositionalproperties. After some clarifications concerning the content of the suggested view, I respond to several objections regarding its intelligibility and viability and outline two of its important consequences.
This Thesis engages with contemporary philosophical controversies about the nature of dispositionalproperties or powers and the relationship they have to their non-dispositional counterparts. The focus concerns fundamentality. In particular, I seek to answer the question, ‘What fundamental properties suffice to account for the manifest world?’ The answer I defend is that fundamental categorical properties need not be invoked in order to derive a viable explanation for the manifest world. My stance is a field-theoretic view (...) which describes the world as a single system comprised of pure power, and involves the further contention that ‘pure power’ should not be interpreted as ‘purely dispositional’, if dispositionality means potentiality, possibility or otherwise unmanifested power or ability bestowed upon some bearer. The theoretical positions examined include David Armstrong’s Categoricalism, Sydney Shoemaker’s Causal Theory of Properties, Brian Ellis’s New Essentialism, Ullin Place’s Conceptualism, Charles Martin’s and John Heil’s Identity Theory of Properties and Rom Harré’s Theory of Causal Powers. The central concern of this Thesis is to examine reasons for holding a pure-power theory, and to defend such a stance. This involves two tasks. The first requires explaining what plays the substance role in a pure-power world. This Thesis argues that fundamental power, although not categorical, can be considered ontologically-robust and thus able to fulfil the substance role. A second task—answering the challenge put forward by Richard Swinburne and thereafter replicated in various neo-Swinburne arguments—concerns how the manifestly qualitative world can be explained starting from a pure-power base. The Light-like Network Account is put forward in an attempt to show how the manifest world can be derived from fundamental pure power. (shrink)
This paper identifies an overdetermination problem faced by the non-reductive dispositional property account of disposition ascriptions. Two possible responses to the problem are evaluated and both are shown to have serious drawbacks. Finally it is noted that the traditional conditional analysis of dispositional ascriptions escapes the original difficulty.
This paper largely engages with Brian Ellis’s description of categorical dimensions as put forward in his paper in this volume. The New Essentialism advocated by Ellis posits the ontologically-robust existence of both dispositional and categorical properties. I have argued that the distinction that Ellis draws between the two is unpersuasive, and that the causal role of categorical dimensions—what they do—is inseparable from what they are. This observation is reinforced by the fact that absolute physical quantities permit re-interpretations of (...) measurement that remove a clear differentiation between categoricity and dispositionality. Distinguishing between ‘pure power’ and ‘dispositionality’, I further argue that: i) there are no ontologically-robust categorical properties, although their apparent existence is explicable as higher-order and supervenient; ii) that the fundamental ingredients of the world may be accounted for in terms of pure-power that is neither categorical nor dispositional; and iii) that the categorical-dispositional distinction arises only at the higher-order level of objects, and does not in any case constitute ontologically-robust partitioning of reality. -/- . (shrink)
One view of the nature of properties has been crystallized in recent debate by an identity thesis proposed by Shoemaker. The general idea is that there is for behaviour. Well-known criticisms of this approach, however, remain unanswered, and the details of its connections to laws nothing more to being a particular causal property than conferring certain dispositions of nature and the precise ontology of causal properties stand in need of development. This paper examines and defends a dispositional (...) essentialist account of causal properties, combining a Shoemaker-type identity thesis with a Dretske, Tooley, and Armstrong-type view that laws are relations between properties, and a realism about dispositions. The property identity thesis is defended against standard epistemological and metaphysical objections. The metaphysics of causal properties is then clarified by a consideration of the laws relating them, vacuous laws, and ceteris paribus law statements. (shrink)
Assuming the increasingly popular background independent substantivalist interpretation of general relativity (GR), in this paper I show that the possibility of spacetime point permutations implies that the locational properties of spacetime points, and structural properties of spacetime are categorical. Categorical properties, however, are often deemed implausible by dispositional monists (Bird 2007; Mumford 2004) due to their quiddistic nature, as their primitive identity entails the unacceptable possibility of properties changing their causal role across possible worlds. The (...) question of whether such properties, or instances thereof are plausible is not addressed in this paper, however I demonstrate that despite locational and structural properties being categorical, they are not quiddistic (at least no more so than powers), and thus a metaphysics of science including both dispositional and categorical properties is admissible for the anti-quidditist. I conclude that although dispositional monism is incompatible with background independent substantivalist models of general relativity, this does not wholly undermine the position. (shrink)
: It is widely thought that dispositionalproperties depend upon categorical properties; specifying the nature of this dependency, however, has proven a difficult task. The dependency of dispositionalproperties upon categorical properties also presents a challenge to the thesis of Physicalism: If the physical sciences only tell us about the dispositionalproperties of the objects they study and if dispositionalproperties depend upon categorical properties, then it appears that there (...) will be kind of property—categorical properties—that will escape description by the physical sciences. This paper argues that a new theory of dispositional and categorical properties, a theory put forth by C.B. Martin and John Heil, solves both of these problems: It presents a way of understanding the sense in which dispositionalproperties depend upon categorical properties that has major advantages over more popular accounts of this dependency and it also provides a new and interesting Physicalist response to the challenge presented by categorical properties. (shrink)
It has been widely assumed that we do not perceive dispositionalproperties. I argue that there are two ways of interpreting this assumption. On the first, extensional, interpretation whether we perceive dispositions depends on a complex set of metaphysical commitments. But if we interpret the claim in the second, intensional, way, then we have no reason to suppose that we do not perceive dispositionalproperties. The two most important and influential arguments to the contrary fail.
The ontology of ‘powerful qualities’ is gaining an increasing amount of attention in the literature on properties. This is the view that the so-called categorical or qualitative properties are identical with ‘dispositional’ properties. The position is associated with C.B. Martin, John Heil, Galen Strawson and Jonathan Jacobs. Robert Schroer ( 2012 ) has recently mounted a number of criticisms against the powerful qualities view as conceived by these main adherents, and has also advanced his own (radically (...) different) version of the view. In this paper I have three main aims: firstly, I shall defend the ontology from his critique, arguing that his criticisms do not damage the position. Secondly, I shall argue that Schroer’s own version of the view is untenable. Thirdly, the paper shall serve to clear up some conceptual confusions that often bedevil the powerful qualities view. (shrink)
Post-Gibson attempts to set out a definition of affordance generally agree that this notion can be understood as a property of the environment with salience for an organism’s behavior. According to this view, some scholars advocate the idea that affordances are dispositionalproperties of physical objects that, given suitable circumstances, necessarily actualize related actions. This paper aims at assessing this statement in light of a theory of affordance perception. After years of discontinuity between strands of empirical and theoretical (...) research, the time is ripe for addressing the question of whether the dispositional interpretation of affordance is in accordance with some recent evidence from cognitive science and neuroscience. Following this line, I clarify that there are some cases of affordance-related effects that neither require the actualization of an action, nor the presence of an action-related property bearer in the environment, and that the identification of affordance with physical properties provides only a partial explanation of the wide range of affordance-related effects. Accordingly, I argue in favor of a more general account of affordance perception based on the ability to directly detect perceptual patterns in the environment. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the requirement for the qualitative is theory-dependent, determined by the fundamental assumptions built into the ontology. John Heil’s qualitative, in its role as individuator of objects and powers, is required only by a theory that posits a world of distinct objects or powers. Does Heil’s ‘deep’ view of the world, such that there is only one powerful object (e.g. a field containing modes or properties which we perceive as manifest everyday objects) require the (...) qualitative as individuator of objects and powers? The answer depends on whether it is possible to account for the manifest objects and the ostensible spatial primacy of our perceived world without recourse to the qualitative. In this paper I outline just such an account with the intention of extending Heil’s efforts to incorporate fundamental power in the world while providing a coherent explanation for our strong intuition of spatial, as against relational, priority. (shrink)
The problem of masking is widely regarded as a grave threat to the conditional analysis of dispositions. Unlike the difficulty arising in connection with finkish situations, the problem does not involve the (dis)appearance of a disposition upon the arrival of its activating conditions. Consequently, some promising responses to the finkish cases, in particular David Lewis's reformed analysis, are ill-equipped to deal with masks. I contend that the difficulty posed by masks can be surmounted by supplementing the counterfactual at the heart (...) of the conditional analysis with a ceteris paribus clause. In spelling out this idea, I first examine the issue of provisos in nomic statements. Then I show how the employment of the ceteris paribus clause escapes the objections that are often raised against it, including the charge that the clause cannot informatively capture all the possible masks of a disposition. (shrink)
In an earlier paper in these pages (2008), we explored the puzzling link between dispositions and conditionals. First, we rehearsed the standard counterexamples to the simple conditional analysis and the refined conditional analysis defended by David Lewis. Second, we attacked a tempting response to these counterexamples: what we called the ‘getting specific strategy’. Third, we presented a series of structural considerations that pose problems for many attempts to understand the link between dispositions and conditionals. Finally, we developed our own account (...) of this link, which avoids all of the standard counterexamples and comports with the relevant structural considerations. In this paper, we reply to some objections. (shrink)
Many predicates are dispositional. Some show this by a suffix like "-ible", -uble", or "-able": sugar is soluble in water, gasoline is flammable. Others have no such suffix and don't wear their dispositionality on their sleeves. Yet part of what it is to be solid is to be disposed to resist deformation, and part of what it is to be red is to appear red to normal human observers in normal lighting conditions. However, there is no agreement as to (...) whether dispositional predicates may be given a realist interpretation. For many authors, propositions containing them are made true by states of affairs (or facts) containing categorical, rather than dispositionalproperties. Many also claim that the states of affairs that make true attributions of dispositions to macroscopic objects are microscopic states of affairs concerning their parts. For example, what makes a vase fragile is the microscopic structure of its molecular constituents, which is what makes the vase break when it falls. Against these claims, I will argue that what makes a dispositional predicate apply to an object, whether macroscopic or microscopic, whether in common sense or science, is the object's having what I will call a powerful property. If the object is macroscopic, it is another matter whether the property is microreducible. My reasons for supposing that these powerful properties exist are those for postulating theoretical properties generally: they unify existing explanations and suggest new ones. (shrink)
What has the dispositional analysis of properties and laws (e.g. Molnar, Powers, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003; Mumford, Laws in nature, Routledge London, 2004; Bird, Nature’s metaphysics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2007) to offer to the scientific understanding of physical properties?—The article provides an answer to this question for the case of spacetime points and their metrical properties in General Relativity. The analysis shows that metrical properties are not ‘powers’, i.e. they cannot be understood as producing (...) the effects of spacetime on matter with metaphysical necessity. Instead they possess categorical characteristics which, in connection with specific laws, explain those effects. Thus, the properties of spacetime do not favor the metaphysics of powers with respect to properties and laws. (shrink)
In this paper I examine the role of dispositionalproperties in the most frequently discussed interpretations of non-relativistic quantum mechanics. After offering some motivation for this project, I briefly characterize the distinction between non-dispositional and dispositionalproperties in the context of quantum mechanics by suggesting a necessary condition for dispositionality – namely contextuality – and, consequently, a sufficient condition for non-dispositionality, namely non-contextuality. Having made sure that the distinction is conceptually sound, I then analyze the (...) plausibility of the widespread, monistic ontological thesis about the reducibility of dispositionalproperties to categorical properties in the context of the philosophy of quantum mechanics. I conclude that with the exception of Bohmian mechanics, the other “minimally realist” views of quantum mechanics require essential dispositions, i.e., dispositions of a non-reducible kind. Interestingly, seen behind the lenses of dispositionalism, Bohr’s and Bohm’s interpretations of quantum mechanics are much closer than it is usually recognized, a fact that could teach us something about the way the quantum world is. (shrink)
Notoriously, the dispositional view of natural properties is thought to face a number of regress problems, one of which points to an epistemological worry. In this paper, I argue that the rival categorical view is also susceptible to the same kind of regress problem. This problem can be overcome, most plausibly, with the development of a structuralist epistemology. After identifying problems faced by alternative solutions, I sketch the main features of this structuralist epistemological approach, referring to graph-theoretic modelling (...) in the process. Given that both the categoricalists and dispositionalists are under pressure to adopt this same epistemological approach in light of the regress problem, this suggests that the categoricalist versus dispositionalist debate is best fought on metaphysical rather than epistemological grounds. (shrink)
Three basic positions regarding the nature of fundamental properties are: dispositional monism, categorical monism and the mixed view. Dispositional monism apparently involves a regress or circularity, while an unpalatable consequence of categorical monism and the mixed view is that they are committed to quidditism. I discuss Alexander Bird's defence of dispositional monism based on the structuralist approach to identity. I argue that his solution does not help standard dispositional essentialism, as it admits the possibility that (...) two distinct dispositionalproperties can possess the same stimuli and manifestations. Moreover, Bird's argument can be used to support the mixed view by relieving it of its commitment to quidditism. I briefly analyse an alternative defence of dispositional essentialism based on Leon Horsten's approach to the problem of circularity and impredicativity. I conclude that the best option is to choose Bird's solution but amend the dispositional perspective on properties. According to my proposal, the essences of dispositions are determined not directly by their stimuli and manifestations but by the role each property plays in the structure formed by the stimulus/manifestation relations. (shrink)
After some suggestions about how to clarify the confused metaphysical distinctions between dispositional and non-dispositional or categorical properties, I review some of the main interpretations of QM in order to show that – with the relevant exception of Bohm’s minimalist interpretation – quantum ontology is irreducibly dispositional. Such an irreducible character of dispositions must be explained differently in different interpretations, but the reducibility of the contextual properties in the case of Bohmian mechanics is guaranteed by (...) the fact that the positions of particles play the role of the categorical basis, a role that in other interpretations cannot be filled by anything else. In Bohr’s and Everett-type interpretations, dispositionalism is instrumentalism in disguise. (shrink)
Several prominent philosophers have held that physical properties are dispositions. The aim of this paper is to establish the following conjunction: if the thesis that physical properties are dispositions is unsupplemented by controversial assumptions about dispositions, it entails a contradiction; and if it is so supplemented the resulting theory has the consequence that either many worlds which seem to be possible worlds are not possible worlds or some properties which seem to be identical are not identical. In (...) this way it is shown that a dispositional account of physical properties is implausible. (shrink)
Dispositional essentialists argue that physical properties have their causal roles essentially. This is typically taken to mean that physical properties are identical to dispositions. I argue that this is untenable, and that we must instead say that properties bestow dispositions. I explore what it is for a property to have such a role essentially. Dispositional essentialists argue for their view by citing certain epistemological and metaphysical implications, and I appeal to these implications to place desiderata (...) on the concept of essence involved. I argue that the traditional modal theory of essence meets these desiderata, but that the resulting theory wrongly implies that certain dispositions essential to mass are essential to charge, thereby offering a new argument against modal theories of essence. I argue that dispositional essentialism requires a primitive notion of essence, and develop a primitivist theory based on Kit Fine's views. I show that the primitivist theory has all the virtues of the modal alternative, and none of the vices. I develop a novel way of thinking about the relationship between properties, laws and dispositions, and argue that it has distinct advantages over standard dispositional essentialist formulations. (shrink)
The debate between emergentists and reductionists rests on the observation that in many situations, in which it seems desirable to work with a coherent and unified discourse, key predicates fall into different groups, such that pairs of members one taken from each group, cannot be co-predicated of some common subject. Must we settle for ‘island’ discourses in science and human affairs or is some route to a unified discourse still open? To make progress towards resolving the issue the conditions under (...) which such segregations of predicates seem inexorable must be brought out. The distinction between determinable and determinate properties throws light on some aspects of this problem. Bohr’s concept of complementarity, when combined with Gibson’s idea of an affordances as a special class of dispositionalproperties is helpful. Several seeming problems melt away, for example, how it is possible for a group of notes to become hearable as a melody. The mind-body problem and the viability of the project of reducing biology to chemistry and physics are two issues that are more difficult to deal with. Are mental phenomena, such as feelings and memories emergent from material systems or are they actually material properties themselves? Are the attributes of living beings emergent from certain accidental but long running collocations of chemical reactions, or are they nothing but chemical phenomena? If emergent, in what way are they distinctive from that from which they emerge? (shrink)
This book aims to develop a philosophical theory of extrinsic properties – of properties whose instantiation by an object does not only depend on what the object itself is like, but also on features of its environment. Various accounts of the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction are analysed in detail, and it is argued that the most promising approach to defining this distinction is to consider extrinsic properties as a particular type of relational property. Moreover, it is shown that two (...) key notions in the metaphysics of properties, the supervenience relation and the dispositional/categorical distinction, whose scope is usually restricted to intrinsic properties, can fruitfully be applied to extrinsic properties as well. (shrink)
Dispostions, such as solubility, cannont be reduced to categorical properties, such as molecular structure, without some element of dipositionaity remaining. Democritus did not reduce all properties to the geometry of atoms - he had to retain the rigidity of the atoms, that is, their disposition not to change shape when a force is applied. So dispositions-not-to, like rigidity, cannot be eliminated. Neither can dispositions-to, like solubility.
Reductionists about dispositions must either say the natural properties are all dispositional or individuate properties hyperintensionally. Lewis stands in as an example of the sort of combination I think is incoherent: properties individuated by modal profile + categoricalism.
A dispositional property is a tendency, or potency, to manifest some characteristic behaviour in some appropriate context. The mainstream view in the twentieth century was that such properties are to be explained in terms of more fundamental non-dispositionalproperties, together with the laws of nature. In the last few decades, however, a rival view has become popular, according to which some properties are essentially dispositional in nature, and the laws of nature are to be (...) explained in terms of these fundamental dispositions. The supposed ability of fundamental dispositions to ground natural laws is one of the most attractive features of the dispositional essentialist position. In this paper, however, I cast doubt on the ability of dispositional essences to ground the laws of nature. In particular I argue that the dispositional essentialist position is not able to coherently respond?sympathetically or otherwise?to Cartwright's challenge that there are no true general laws of nature. (shrink)
This paper sketches a dispositionalist conception of laws and shows how the dispositionalist should respond to certain objections. The view that properties are essentially dispositional is able to provide an account of laws that avoids the problems that face the two views of laws (the regularity and the contingent nomic necessitation views) that regard properties as categorical and laws as contingent. I discuss and reject the objections that (i) this view makes laws necessary whereas they are contingent; (...) (ii) this view cannot account for certain kinds of laws of nature and their properties. (shrink)
Those who favour an ontology based on dispositions are thereby able to provide a dispositional essentialist account of the laws of nature. In part 1 of this paper I sketch the dispositional essentialist conception of properties and the concomitant account of laws. In part 2, I characterise various claims about the modal character of properties that fall under the heading ‘quidditism’ and which are consequences of the categoricalist view of properties, which is the alternative to (...) the dispositional essentialist view. I argue that quidditism should be rejected. In part 3, I address a criticism of a strong dispositional essentialist view, viz. that ‘structural’ (i.e. geometrical, numerical, spatial and temporal) properties must be regarded as categorical. (shrink)
This paper examines the idea that there might be natural kinds of causal processes, with characteristic diachronic structure, in much the same way that various chemical elements form natural kinds, with characteristic synchronic structure. This claim -- if compatible with empirical science -- has the potential to shed light on a metaphysics of essentially dispositionalproperties, championed by writers such as Bird and Ellis.
This is a rewarding book. In terms of area, it has one foot firmly planted in metaphysics and the other just as firmly set in the philosophy of science. Nature's Metaphysics is distinctive for its thorough and detailed defense of fundamental, natural properties as essentially dispositional and for its description of how these dispositionalproperties are thus suited to sustain the laws of nature as (metaphysically) necessary truths.