What is the connection between dispositions and ethics? Some might think very little and those who are interested in dispositions tend to be metaphysicians whose interests are far from value. However, we argue in this paper that dispositions and dispositionality are central to ethics, indeed a precondition. Ethics rests on a number of notions that are either dispositional in nature or involve real dispositions or powers at work. We argue for a dispositional account of value that offers an alternative to (...) the traditional fact-value dichotomy. We explain the place of value within a structure that explains the possibility of ethics. Elsewhere in this structure, we argue that moral responsibility is a precondition for ethics and that it is a dispositional notion depending critically on what Mumford and Anjum have called the dispositional modality. Moral responsibility in turn depends on there being both agency and normativity. We argue that intentionality and agency are preconditions for agency and that value is a precondition of normativity. All these notions are dispositional and make best sense if there are real dispositions or causal powers of agents. (shrink)
This paper argues that the technical notion of conditional probability, as given by the ratio analysis, is unsuitable for dealing with our pretheoretical and intuitive understanding of both conditionality and probability. This is an ontological account of conditionals that include an irreducible dispositional connection between the antecedent and consequent conditions and where the conditional has to be treated as an indivisible whole rather than compositional. The relevant type of conditionality is found in some well-defined group of conditional statements. As an (...) alternative, therefore, we briefly offer grounds for what we would call an ontological reading: for both conditionality and conditional probability in general. It is not offered as a fully developed theory of conditionality but can be used, we claim, to explain why calculations according to the RATIO scheme does not coincide with our intuitive notion of conditional probability. What it shows us is that for an understanding of the whole range of conditionals we will need what John Heil (2003), in response to Quine (1953), calls an ontological point of view. (shrink)
Part I will deal with the central system of metaphysics that Armstrong developed between 1978 and 1997. This will concern, in turn, the major topics of universals, laws, modality, facts or states of affairs, and dispositions. It will be demonstrated how Armstrong’s distinct contributions to these separate problems came together in a unified and systematic account such that he could be judged as holding a single, very appealing, metaphysical theory.
Omissions are sometimes linked to responsibility. A harm can counterfactually depend on an omission to prevent it. If someone had the ability to prevent a harm but didn’t, this could suffice to ground their responsibility for the harm. We present an argument for this based on the WGPCGR-thesis: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility. -/- We argue, with reference to Moore’s account in Causation and Responsibility (Moore 2009), that moral and legal responsibility is based on the power we have as (...) causal agents, but not on causation as such. Specifically, we contend that an agent can be held responsible for an act only under certain modal conditions: if it was within their power to act but also not to act. This is a modality that is less than necessity but also more than pure contingency. It allows agents to be responsible causally for some effect when it was their action that produced it, and that agents might be responsible for something non-causally when they had the power to prevent it and failed to do so. We also maintain that agents could be non-causally responsible for something if their action was a sine qua non for something else. We conclude that allocation of moral and legal responsibility is governed by three principles: -/- a. Without the ability to do x, but also to prevent x, one cannot be responsible for doing x. b. With the ability to do x, one can (but need not necessarily) have a responsibility to do x. c. The more able one is to do x, if one should do x, then the greater the responsibility to do x. (shrink)
Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) remain recalcitrant to the medical profession, proving less suitable for homogenic treatment with respect to their aetiology, taxonomy and diagnosis. While the majority of existing medical research methods are designed for large scale population data and sufficiently homogenous groups, MUS are characterised by their heterogenic and complex nature. As a result, MUS seem to resist medical scrutiny in a way that other conditions do not. This paper approaches the problem of MUS from a philosophical point of (...) view. The aim is to first consider the epistemological problem of MUS in a wider ontological and phenomenological context, particularly in relation to causation. Second, the paper links current medical practice to certain ontological assumptions. Finally, the outlines of an alternative ontology of causation are offered which place characteristic features of MUS, such as genuine complexity, context-sensitivity, holism and medical uniqueness at the centre of any causal set-up, and not only for MUS. This alternative ontology provides a framework in which to better understand complex medical conditions in relation to both their nature and their associated research activity. (shrink)
Mumford and Anjum’s Getting Causes from Powers is an ambitious and original contribution to the literature on causation, a welcome departure from Humean approaches which reductively analyze causation in terms of regularities or counterfactual conditionals. The authors develop an account of causation as the exercising of powers, a view they call “causal dispositionalism.” This critique of Getting Causes from Powers is organized around its central heuristic—the vector model of causation. On this model, vectors represent the exercising of powers, those that (...) are operating upon a quality space. A quality space is a background against which events can occur, where two or more general properties are considered as possible for instantiation. A central line represents a starting point of a causal process, and vectors represent the powers in play. A vector is apt for representing a power because it has intensity and a direction, indicated by its length and the property term at which it points (24). A resultant vector R is also depicted, indicating the extent to which all of the powers in play collectively dispose toward one of the properties in the quality space. A threshold may also be depicted, representing a point on the quality space that may be of particular pragmatic interest, the passing of which would count as disposing toward an effect in question. Mumford and Anjum make the bold claim that all things can be represented by vectors (45–46). This claim is supported by the following theses: everything has properties; properties are clusters of powers; powers have intensity and direction; vectors represent intensity and direction. Even granting these theses, there is still much that the vectors do not represent. I discuss three things that are not represented by the vector model, in increasing order of significance for the account generally. (shrink)
Metaphysics and Science brings together important new work within an emerging philosophical discipline: the metaphysics of science. In the opening chapter, a definition of the metaphysics of science is offered, one which explains why the topics of laws, causation, natural kinds, and emergence are at the discipline's heart. The book is then divided into four sections, which group together papers from leading academics on each of those four topics. Among the questions discussed are: How are laws and measurement methods related? (...) Can a satisfactory reductive account of laws be given? How can Lorentz transformation laws be explained? How are dispositions triggered? What role should dispositional properties play in our understanding of causation? Are natural kinds and natural properties distinct? How is the Kripke-Putnam semantics for natural kind terms related to the natural kind essentialist thesis? What would have to be the case for natural kind terms to have determinate reference? What bearing, if any, does nonlinearity in science have on the issue of metaphysical emergence? (shrink)
We claim that if a complete philosophy of evidence-based practice is intended, then attention to the nature of causation in health science is necessary. We identify how health science currently conceptualises causation by the way it prioritises some research methods over others. We then show how the current understanding of what causation is serves to constrain scientific progress. An alternative account of causation is offered. This is one of dispositionalism. We claim that by understanding causation from a dispositionalist stance, many (...) of the processes within an evidence-based practice framework are better accounted for. Further, some of the problems associated with the health research, e.g. external validity of causal findings, dissolve. (shrink)
Sport is a producer of both emotional and aesthetic experiences. But how do these relate? Does a spectator?s emotional engagement in sport enhance or hinder it as an aesthetic experience? And does the aesthetic perception of sport enhance or hinder the emotional experiences? These questions will be addressed with particular reference to the distinction that can be drawn between partisan and purist watchers of sport, and making use of thinking in contemporary aesthetics and philosophy of emotion. There are some reasons (...) to think that emotion and aesthetics pull in opposite directions, in both sport and wider life. Does a purist miss out on the essence of sport if they adopt a detached aesthetic attitude? If that were the case, it would suggest that the sports spectator might have to choose between the two: experiencing one or the other but not both at the same time. Emotions and aesthetics would be a trade-off but I argue for some significant exceptions to this conclusion. (shrink)
In Watching Sport, Stephen Mumford distinguishes two ways in which sport can be seen. A purist sees it aesthetically while a partisan sees it competitively. But this overlooks the obvious point that most sports fans are neither entirely purist nor entirely partisan. The norm will be some moderate position in between with the purist and partisan as ideal limits. What is then the point of considering these pure aesthetic and pure competitive ways of seeing? In this discussion note, I consider (...) possible accounts of the way in which the moderate spectator watches. After rejecting what I call a pure perception theory and a mixed view, I defend an oscillation theory. This means that the moderate sports fan is one who switches, sometimes rapidly, between the aesthetic and competitive perceptions of sport. A pay-off of this account is that we do not need a further, third way of perceiving sport in order to account for the moderate. It has been explained in terms of our original two forms of perception. This fills a lacuna in Mumford's account. (shrink)
In this paper a dispositional account of meaning is offered. Words might dispose towards a particular or ‘literal’ meaning, but whether this meaning is actually conveyed when expressed will depend on a number of factors, such as speaker’s intentions, the context of the utterance and the background knowledge of the hearer. It is thus argued that no meaning is guaranteed or necessitated by the words used.
The voluntary suspension of play (VSP) is a putative fair play norm that has emerged in the last 20 years in association football, though there is no reason in principle why it is limited to that sport. It occurs in football when an injury appears to have been sustained and another player deliberately puts the ball out of play so that the injury can receive rapid attention. It is widely understood as a positive development within the sport and philosophers have (...) added their support on the basis that VSP is a way of players exercising autonomous moral responsibility. It is represented as a case of athletes putting care for their competitors before care for the contest. In this paper, however, it is argued that moral praise for VSP is misplaced. Attempts to induce a VSP almost always occur when a team is seeking to hold a position within a game. As a delaying tactic, it encourages the faking of injuries, which is all the more reprehensible because it exploits someone else's concern for that apparent injury. Conditions for the possibility of VSP within a sport are analysed as well as conditions for the abuse of VSP. VSP occurs because of a loophole, and ways in which this can be closed are presented. In an appendix, some initial empirical evidence is presented that backs the evaluative claims of the paper. (shrink)
There has been much discussion of powers or real dispositions in the past decade, but there remains an issue that has been inadequately treated. This concerns the precise modal value that comes with dispositionality. We contend in this paper that dispositionality involves a non-alethic, sui generis, irreducible modality. Dispositions only tend towards their manifestations; they do not necessitate them. Tendency is, of course, a dispositional term itself, so this last statement offers little by way of illumination. But given our thesis (...) on the irreducible nature of dispositionality, we maintain that it cannot be explicated correctly in non-dispositional terms. Nevertheless, we all have experience of dispositionality at work, through the exercise or our own powers and the action of other powers upon us. The notion of dispositionality that we acquire is one that involves a modality stronger than pure contingency but weaker than necessity. The recognition of this distinct modal value for dispositionality is one of the biggest oversights in the growing literature in the area. Yet it is there for all to see in even the most mundane example. (shrink)
Causation is everywhere in the world: it features in every science and technology. But how much do we truly understand it? Do we know what it means to say that one thing is a cause of another and do we understand what in the world drives causation? Getting Causes from Powers develops a new and original theory of causation based on an ontology of real powers or dispositions. Others have already suggested that this ought to be possible, but no one (...) has yet performed the detailed work. Stephen Mumford and Rani Lill Anjum argue here that the completed theory will not look exactly as anyone has yet anticipated, and that a thoroughly dispositional theory of causation has some surprising features, for instance with respect to modality. The book is not restricted to the metaphysics of causation, but treats a variety of topics such as explanation, perception, modelling, the logic of causal claims, transitivity, and nonlinearity, and the empirical credentials of the theory are tested with reference to biology. (shrink)
A standard way of representing causation is with neuron diagrams. This has become popular since the influential work of David Lewis. But it should not be assumed that such representations are metaphysically neutral and amenable to any theory of causation. On the contrary, this way of representing causation already makes several Humean assumptions about what causation is, and which suit Lewis’s programme of Humean Supervenience. An alternative of a vector diagram is better suited for a powers ontology. Causation should be (...) understood as connecting property types and tokens where there are dispositions towards some properties rather than others. Such a model illustrates how an effect is typically polygenous: caused by many powers acting with each other, and sometimes against each other. It models causation as a tendency towards an effect which can be counteracted. The model can represent cases of causal complexity, interference, over-determination and causation of absence (equilibrium). (shrink)
Hume thought that if you believed in powers, you believed in necessary connections in nature. He was then able to argue that there were none such because anything could follow anything else. But Hume wrong-footed his opponents. A power does not necessitate its manifestations: rather, it disposes towards them in a way that is less than necessary but more than purely contingent. -/- In this paper a dispositional theory of causation is offered. Causes dispose towards their effects and often produce (...) them. But a set of causes, even though they may succeed in producing an effect, cannot necessitate it since the effect could have been counteracted by some additional power. This would require a separation of our concepts of causal production and causal necessitation. The most conspicuous cases of causation are those where powers accumulate and pass a requisite threshold for an effect to occur. -/- We develop a model for representing powers as constituent vectors within an n-dimensional quality space, where composition of causes appears as vector addition. Even our resultant vector, however, has to be understood as having dispositional force only. This model throws new light on causal modality and cases of prevention, causation by absence and probabilistic causation. (shrink)
This paper contains a consideration of the notion of genius and its significance to the discussion of the aesthetics of sport. We argue that genius can make a positive aes- thetic contribution in both art and sport, just as some have argued that the moral content of a work of art can affect its aesthetic value. A genius is an exceptional inno- vator of successful strategies, where such originality adds aesthetic value. We argue that an original painting can have greater (...) aesthetic value than an exact replica, merely because it is the original. By parity of reasoning, a successful innovation in sport has additional aesthetic value just because it is a new creation. The genius is one who can provide this extra aesthetic pleasure and on that basis is rightly valued. The genius need not be conscious of how they achieve such innovations and thus find their own genius to be something they cannot explain but only demonstrate. In sport, innova- tions that offer new ways of playing or solving problems can produce competitive success which demands instant recognition and rewards. (shrink)
Does A cause B simply if A prevents what would have prevented B? Such a case is known as double prevention: where we have the prevention of a prevention. One theory of causation is that A causes B when B counterfactually depends on A and, as there is such a dependence, proponents of the view must rule that double prevention is causation.<br><br>However, if double prevention is causation, it means that causation can be an extrinsic matter, that the cause and effect (...) need not be connected by a continuous chain of events, that there can be causation by absence, and that there can be causation at a distance. All of these implications jar with strong intuitions we have about the nature of causation. There is, on the other hand, a theory of causation based on an ontology of real dispositions, where causation involves the passing around of powers. This theory in contrast entails that double prevention is not causation and, on this issue, it can claim a victory over the counterfactual dependence account. (shrink)
What makes it true when we say that something is not the case? Truthmaker maximalists think that every truth has a truthmaker—some fact in the world—that makes it true. No such facts can be found for the socalled negative truths. If a proposition is true when it has a truthmaker, then it would be false when it has no truthmaker. I therefore argue that negative truths, such as t<p>, are best understood as falsehoods, f<p>.
I develop a metaphysical position that is both lawless and anti-Humean. The position is called realist lawlessness and contrasts with both Humean lawlessness and nomological realism – the claim that there are laws in nature. While the Humean view also allows no laws, realist lawlessness is not Humean because it accepts some necessary connections in nature between distinct properties. Realism about laws, on the other hand, faces a central dilemma. Either laws govern the behaviour of properties from the outside or (...) from the inside. If the former, an unacceptable quidditist view of properties follows. But no plausible account of laws within properties can be developed that permits a governing role specifically for laws. I conclude in favour of eliminativism about laws. At the conceptual core, the notion of a law in nature is misleading. It is suggestive of an otherwise static world in need of animation. (shrink)
This book outlines a major new theory of natural laws. The book begins with the question of whether there are any genuinely law-like phenomena in nature. The discussion addresses questions currently being debated by metaphysicians such as whether the laws of nature are necessary or contingent and whether a property can be identified independently of its causal role.
It is argued that miracles are best understood as natural events with supernatural causes and that such causal interaction is logically possible. Such miracles may, or may not, involve violations of natural laws. If violations of laws are possible, Humean supervenience views of laws are best avoided. Where miracles violate laws, it shows that what is naturally impossible may be actual and what is naturally necessary may not be actual. Whether or not miracles actually occur, this demonstrates that the nomic (...) modalities differ from the logical. The theory contrasts favourably with competitors and allows, contrary to an interpretation of Aquinas, that Creation would have been a miracle. (shrink)