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)
In identifying intrinsic molecular chance and extrinsic adaptive pressures as the only causally relevant factors in the process of evolution, the theoretical perspective of the Modern Synthesis had a major impact on the perceived tenability of an ontology of dispositionalproperties. However, since the late 1970s, an increasing number of evolutionary biologists have challenged the descriptive and explanatory adequacy of this “chance alone, extrinsic only” understanding of evolutionary change. Because morphological studies of homology, convergence, and teratology have revealed (...) a space of possible forms and phylogenetic trajectories that is considerably more restricted than expected, evo-devo has focused on the causal contribution of intrinsic developmental processes to the course of evolution. Evo-devo’s investigation into the developmental structure of the modality of morphology – including both the possibility and impossibility of organismal form – has led to the utilisation of a number of dispositional concepts that emphasise the tendency of the evolutionary process to change along certain routes. In this sense, and in contrast to the perspective of the Modern Synthesis, evo-devo can be described as a “science of dispositions.” This chapter discusses the recent philosophical literature on dispositionalproperties in evo-devo, exploring debates about both the metaphysical and epistemological aspects of the central dispositional concepts utilised in contemporary evo-devo and addressing the epistemological question of how dispositionalproperties challenge existing explanatory models in evolutionary biology. (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)
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.
In_ Dispositional Properties_, David Weissman attacks a problem central to the philosophy of mind and, by implication, to the theory of being: Are there potentialities, capabilities, which dispose the mind to think in one way rather than another? The volume is arranged in the form of four arguments that converge upon a single point. First, there is an intricate discussion of the shortcomings of Hume's account of mind as ideas and impressions. Next comes a brief treatment of the arguments (...) of some of Weissman's contemporaries, including Carnap and Braithwaite. Third, Weissman discusses Wittgenstein's theories of learning and knowledge. Finally, there is a full discussion of Aristotle and his doctrine of potentialities. The question this book ultimately raises is how to steer between a doctrine of mind as no more than a series of acts, on the one hand, and a doctrine of mind as a kind of unitary object, on the other. The solution is to show first of all that there must be a potentiality in the universe, and then to show clearly and in detail that the mind is shot through with that potentiality. __. (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 disposition ascriptions escapes the original difficulty.
_ Source: _Page Count 20 Tugby and Yates have recently argued that immanent realism is incompatible with the existence of intrinsic but relationally constituted genuine dispositionalproperties. The success of Tugby’s and Yates’ arguments depends either on a strong or on a weak assumption about the interworld identity of dispositionalproperties. In this paper, the author evaluates the strength of the arguments in question under those two assumptions. He also offers an alternative metaphysical picture for the (...) fundamental dispositionalproperties which rejects these assumptions and, consequently, undermines the arguments themselves. (shrink)
This paper has two main aims. The first is to present a general approach for understanding “dispositional” and “categorical” properties; the second aim is to use this approach to criticize Russellian Monism. On the approach I suggest, what are usually thought of as “dispositional” and “categorical” properties are really just the extreme ends of a spectrum of options. The approach allows for a number of options between these extremes, and it is plausible, I suggest, that just (...) about everything of scientific interest falls in this middle ground. I argue that Russellian Monism depends for its plausibility on the unarticulated assumption that there are no properties in the middle ground. (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.
Dispositional essentialism maintains that all sparse properties are essentially powerful. Two conceptions of sparse properties appear compatible with dispositional essentialism: sparse properties as pure powers or as powerful qualities. This paper compares the two views, criticizes the powerful qualities view, and then develops a new theory of pure powers, termed Point Theory. This theory neutralizes the main advantage powerful qualities appear to possess over pure powers—explaining the existence of powers during latency periods. The paper discusses (...) the relation between powers and space-time points, whether pure powers need to occupy space, and how to account for the movement of pure powers through space-time. Given Point Theory, dispositional essentialists should maintain that sparse properties are pure powers. (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)
The article explains my third argument for panpsychism, based on disolving all properties, including dispositional physical properties like mass, energy, and force, into phenomenal properties. I thus reject a dual-property version of panpsychism. I seek to show, contrary to Paul Churchland, that the general panpsychist hypothesis has some explanatory value, and makes a cosmology consisting in comparative psychology possible. The mental life even of so-called physical particles in physics is hypothesized to help explain their behavior.
Most metaphysicians deny that dispositions are among the fundamental constituents of the world. The solubility of salt, for example, is regarded as derivative from more basic features of reality, such as the molecular structure of salt and the laws of nature. This is an initially plausible view: a disposition seems to be essentially a characterization of what its bearer can do, which seems to be wholly dependent on what that bearer is like. ;Nonetheless, I think that the most attractive view (...) of dispositions is that they are fundamental constituents of reality---in fact, almost all real properties are irreducibly dispositional. Following D. M. Armstrong, I call this view dispositionalism. In my dissertation, I address several major difficulties for dispositionalism. For instance, it is often argued that dispositionalism makes causal relations necessary, and is thus committed to an unacceptable theory of causation. In response to this worry, I defend the thesis that causal relations are necessary. A second objection is based on C. B. Martin's "finkish" cases. It is widely accepted that some accounts of dispositions are able to escape this objection by adopting David Lewis's response to it. Contra Lewis, I argue that dispositionalism can follow in their footsteps. Finally, I consider the objection that dispositionalism, by implying that it is dispositions all the way down, leads to a vicious regress. I think that this is the most serious problem for dispositionalism, and although I do not fully lay it to rest, I make some headway. ;I also survey a wide range of competing theories of dispositions. I argue that the difficulties they face are both far greater than has been recognized, and more serious than the difficulties that beset dispositionalism. The result is not a conclusive proof of dispositionalism, but a demonstration that this underdog theory is preferable to its more popular competitors. (shrink)
Inspired by an analogy between moral and secondary properties, some moral philosophers have argued that moral properties are dispositions. According to one version of this view, most clearly represented by Jonathan Dancy, a moral property is the property of being such, having base properties such, that an entity with the property elicits morally merited and motivating responses. Its proponents have argued that this notion can explain how moral judgements can be objective in the sense of expressing (...) class='Hi'>properties that are independent of will and yet imply motivation by those who assert them. In special consideration of Dancy’s Moral Reasons, I argue that the dispositional account does not save the idea of objectivity in the required sense and implies an untenable view of moral motivation. I therefore conclude that the dispositional account fails to explain the two features of moral judgements. (shrink)
– The paper defends a naturalistic version of modal actualism according to which what is metaphysically possible is determined by dispositions found in the actual world. We argue that there is just one world—this one—and that all genuine possibilities are anchored by the dispositions exemplified in this world. This is the case regardless of whether or not those dispositions are manifested. As long as the possibility is one that would obtain were the relevant disposition manifested, it is a genuine possibility. (...) Furthermore, by starting from actual dispositionalproperties and branching out, we are able to include possibilities that are quite far removed from any state of affairs that happens to obtain, while still providing a natural and actual grounding of possibility. Stressing the importance of ontological considerations in any theory of possibility, it is argued that the account of possibility in terms of dispositionalproperties provides a more palatable ontology than those of its competitors. Coming at it from the other direction, the dispositional account of possibility also provides motivation for taking an ontology of dispositions more seriously. As well as the relevant dispositional notions required to lay out the view, the paper discusses the dispositional realism needed as the basis for the account of possibility. (shrink)
Dispositional essentialism is a non-Humean view about the essences of certain fundamental or natural properties that looms large in recent metaphysics , not least because it promises to explain neatly the natural modalities such as laws of nature, counterfactuals, causation and chance. In the current paper, however, several considerations are presented that indicate a serious tension between its essentialist core thesis and natural “metaphysical” interpretations of its central explanatory claims.
Dispositionalproperties are often referred to as ‘causal powers’, but what does dispositional causation amount to? Any viable theory must account for two fundamental aspects of the metaphysics of causation – the causal complexity and context sensitivity of causal interactions. The theory of mutual manifestations attempts to do so by locating the complexity and context sensitivity within the nature of dispositions themselves. But is this theory an acceptable first step towards a viable theory of dispositional causation? (...) This paper argues that the reconceptualization that the theory entails comes at too high a price, and is an unnecessary step in the wrong direction: these two central aspects concerning the metaphysics of causation can and should be accounted for in a dispositional account of causation without it. (shrink)
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)
According to non-reductive physicalism, mental properties of the phenomenal sort are essentially different from physical properties, and cannot be reduced to them. This being a quarrel about properties, I draw on the categorical / dispositional distinction to discuss this non-reductive claim. Typically, non-reductionism entails a categorical view of phenomenal properties. Contrary to this, I will argue that phenomenal properties, usually characterized by what it is like to have them, are mainly the manifestation of (...) class='Hi'>dispositionalproperties. This paper is thus divided into two parts. In the first part, after tracing a working distinction between categorical and dispositionalproperties, I argue that there is a form of incoherence looming behind the idea of taking phenomenal properties as categorical. In the second part, I argue in favor of the view that phenomenal properties are dispositionalproperties with an essential manifestation. This interpretation allows us to broaden dispositionalism so as to include the sciences of mind, thus ultimately favoring a physicalist view on the mind. (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)
According to the proponents of Developmental Systems Theory and the Causal Parity Thesis, the privileging of the genome as “first among equals” with respect to the development of phenotypic traits is more a reflection of our own heuristic prejudice than of ontology - the underlying causal structures responsible for that specified development no more single out the genome as primary than they do other broadly “environmental” factors. Parting with the methodology of the popular responses to the Thesis, this paper offers (...) a novel criterion for ‘causal primacy’, one that is grounded in the ontology of the unique causal role of dispositionalproperties. This paper argues that, if the genome is conceptualised as realising dispositionalproperties that are “directed toward” phenotypic traits, the parity of ‘causal roles’ between genetic and extra-genetic factors is no longer apparent, and further, that the causal primacy of the genome is both plausible and defensible. (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)
Several philosophers have recently suggested that truths about unactualized metaphysical possibilities are true in virtue of the existence of actual objects and their dispositionalproperties. For example, on this view, it is true that unicorns are metaphysically possible only if some actual object has (or had) the disposition to bring it about that there are unicorns. This view, a dispositionalist version of what has recently been dubbed “The New Actualism,” is a proposal about the nature of modal truthmakers. (...) But, I will argue, this proposal entails much more than that. Here, I will demonstrate that, if the modal truthmakers are the dispositionalproperties of actual objects, then either (i) there exists one or more causally potent necessary beings, or (ii) necessarily, there exists an actually infinite number of contingent beings. (shrink)
Let us call dispositional monism the view that all natural properties have their identities fixed purely by their dispositional features, that is, by the patterns of stimulus and response in which they participate. DM implies that natural properties are pure powers: things whose natures are fully identified by their roles in determining the potentialities of events to cause or be caused. As pure powers, properties are meant to lack quiddities in Black's sense. A property possesses (...) a quiddity just in case its identity is fixed by something independent of the causal–nomological roles it may enter into. Paradigmatically, a categorical property is thought of as a property whose identity is fixed by a quiddity .The key question about the viability of DM as a theory of properties is how properties can be pure powers devoid of any quiddity. Bird provides an answer. According to Bird , ‘all there is to a property is a matter of second-order relations to other properties’. The second-order relation is just the relation that a disposition, its stimulus condition, and a manifestation condition bear to each other. Call this relation SR. SR is not causation or physical necessitation. The latter relations are first-order relations between concrete events. SR is a second-order relation. Its possession by properties explains why events featuring those properties can enter into certain first-order relations of causation or necessitation.Bird's thought then is this: the sense in which properties have their identities fixed purely by their causal–nomological roles is that they are relationally constituted, where the relation doing the constituting is SR. 1 This thesis of relational constitution does not imply that natural properties are themselves relations. Nothing prevents the identity …. (shrink)
The paper defends a naturalistic version of modal actualism according to which what is metaphysically possible is determined by dispositions found in the actual world. We argue that there is just one world – this one – and that all genuine possibilities are grounded in the dispositions exemplified in it. This is the case whether or not those dispositions are manifested. As long as the possibility is one that would obtain were the relevant disposition manifested, it is a genuine possibility. (...) Furthermore, by starting from actual dispositionalproperties and branching out, we are able to countenance possibilities quite far removed from any state of affairs that happens to obtain, while still providing a natural and actual grounding of possibility. Stressing the importance of ontological considerations in any theory of possibility, it is argued that the account of possibility in terms of dispositionalproperties provides a more palatable ontology than those of its competitors. Coming at it from the other direction, the dispositional account of possibility also provides motivation for taking an ontology of dispositions more seriously. (shrink)
This paper explores the possibility of developing a hybrid version of dispositional theories of aesthetic values. On such a theory, uses of aesthetic predicates express relational second-order dispositionalproperties. If the theory is not absolutist, it allows for the relativity of aesthetic values. But it may be objected to on the grounds that it fails to explain disagreement among subjects who are not disposed alike. This paper explores the possibility of adapting recent proposals of hybrid expressivist theories (...) for moral predicates to the case of aesthetic predicates. Hybrid expressivist theories make no explicit commitment about the kind of property expressed by the predicate, but make explicit commitments to implicated (or presupposed)expressive content. It is argued that dispositionalism about the properties expressed by aesthetic predicates, combined with expressive implicatures (or presuppositions), can account for aesthetic disagreements even in cases where subjects are not relevantly alike. (shrink)
Suppose that X and Y can’t possibly exist apart in reality; then—by definition—there’s no real distinction between them, only a conceptual distinction. There’s a conceptual distinction between a rectilinear figure’s triangularity and its trilaterality, for example, but no real distinction. In fundamental metaphysics there is no real distinction between an object’s categorical properties and its dispositionalproperties. So too there is no real distinction between an object and its properties. And in fundamental metaphysics, for X and (...) Y to be such that there is no real distinction between them is for them to be identical. (shrink)
The central theme of this paper is the dispositional/categorical distinction that has been one of the top agendas in contemporary metaphysics. I will first develop from my semantic account of dispositions what I think the correct formulation of the dispositional/categorical distinction in terms of counterfactual conditionals. It will be argued that my formulation does not have the shortcomings that have plagued previously proposed ones. Then I will turn my attention to one of its consequences, the thesis that (...) class='Hi'>dispositionalproperties are not susceptible to intrinsic finks. This thesis was first advanced by me and has ever since stirred up a big controversy, endorsed by some philosophers like Handfield, Bird, and Cohen but rejected by others like Clarke and Fara. Against this background, I will remedy my defense of the impossibility of intrinsically finkable dispositions and then refute some of apparently powerful criticisms of it. And so the upshot is that it is much more reasonable to hold on to the thesis that dispositions are intrinsically unfinkable. This will have the effect of putting the dispositional/categorical distinction on firmer and more secure ground. (shrink)
Consciousness supervenes on activity; computation supervenes on structure. Because of this, some argue, conscious states cannot supervene on computational ones. If true, this would present serious difficulties for computationalist analyses of consciousness (or, indeed, of any domain with properties that supervene on actual activity). I argue that the computationalist can avoid the Superfluous Structure Problem (SSP) by moving to a dispositional theory of implementation. On a dispositional theory, the activity of computation depends entirely on changes in the (...) intrinsic properties of implementing material. As extraneous structure is not required for computation, a system can implement a program running on some but not all possible inputs. Dispositional computationalism thus permits episodes of computational activity that correspond to potential episodes of conscious awareness. The SSP cannot be motivated against this account, and so computationalism may be preserved. (shrink)
If dispositions are conceived as properties of systems that refer to possible causal relations, dispositions can be used in singular causal explanations. By means of these dispositional explanations, we can explain behavior B of a system x by (i) referring to a situation of type S that triggered B, given that x has a disposition D to do B in S, or (ii) by referring to a disposition D of x to do B in S, given that x (...) is in a situation of type S. Dispositional explanations are adequate and indispensable explanations: they can explain behavior B without explicitly referring to the underlying causal basis in x that constitutes a disposition to do B. Radical Behaviorist explanations are a sort of dispositional explanations, but the dispositional model is not restricted to these explanations. The dispositional model is compatible with, or can be applied to, several research programs. (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)