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.
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)
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)
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)
Mumford puts forward a new theory of dispositions, showing how central their role in metaphysics and philosophy of science is. Much of our understanding of the physical and psychological world is expressed in terms of dispositional properties--from the spin of a sub-atomic particle to the solubility of sugar. Mumford discusses what it means to say that something has a property of this kind and how dispositions can possibly be real things in the world.