In this paper, we consider recent attempts to metaphysically explain agentive modality in terms of conditionals. We suggest that the best recent accounts face counterexamples, and more worryingly, they take some agentive modality for granted. In particular, the ability to perform basic actions features as a primitive in these theories. While it is perfectly acceptable for a semantics of agentive modal claims to take some modality for granted in getting the extension of action claims correct, a metaphysical explanation of agentive (...) modality cannot, at least not in the way that conditional approaches to agentive modality do. We argue that this problem was present even in the classical conditional analysis. By a pessimistic induction, we suggest that, probably, no conditional approach to agentive modality will succeed. (shrink)
In this paper we develop an analysis of dispositions by means of causal Bayes nets. In particular, we analyze dispositions as cause-effect structures that increase the probability of the manifestation when the stimulus is brought about by intervention in certain circumstances. We then highlight several advantages of our analysis and how it can handle problems arising for classical analyses of dispositions such as masks, mimickers, and finks.
Externalists about epistemic justification have long emphasized the connection between truth and justification, with this coupling finding explicit expression in process reliabilism. Process reliabilism, however, faces a number of severe difficulties, leading disenchanted process reliabilists to find a new theoretical home. The conceptual flag under which such epistemologists have preferred to gather is that of dispositions. Just as reliabilism is determined by the frequency of a particular outcome, making it possible to characterize justification in terms of a particular relationship to (...) truth, dispositions are accompanied by concrete, worldly manifestations. By taking true beliefs as the result, not of certain processes but of particular dispositions, these epistemologists have attempted to respond to the numerous obstacles to reliabilism. Yet all this work has proceeded without regard to the wealth of contemporary work on the metaphysics of dispositions, making the new hope premature at best, ill-founded at worst. Combining contemporary dispositional accounts of justification with extant analyses of dispositions reveals that the latter is the case. The structural differences between epistemic justification and dispositions make it clear that not only should process reliabilism be abandoned, but the subsequent appeal to dispositions along with it. (shrink)
Dispositions can be masked: some state of affairs might obtain which would prevent an entity from displaying the manifestation characteristic of its disposition. Yet discussions of masks overlook a number of key problems, chief among them the probabilistic nature of many dispositional masks. In this paper, I highlight the manner in which past analyses of dispositional masks have been unable to solve the problem of masks. I propose an analysis of dispositional masks which focuses on this and a number of (...) other problems, which I argue can address them better than past accounts can. I argue that some entity masks some disposition just in case that entity makes it such that the disposition is less likely to manifest, or such that it will manifest to a lower degree. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue in favor of necessitarianism, the view that dispositions, when stimulated, necessitate their manifestations. After introducing and clarifying what necessitarianism does and does not amount to, I provide reasons to support the view that dispositions once stimulated necessitate their manifestations according to the stimulating conditions and the relevant properties at stake. In this framework, I will propose a principle of causal relevance and some conditions for the possibility of interference that allow us to avoid the use (...) of ceteris paribus clauses. I then defend necessitarianism from recent attacks raised by, among others, Mumford and Anjum, noting that the antecedent strengthening test is a test for causal relevance that raises no difficulties for necessitarianism. (shrink)
The present paper argues that when thematic roles are restricted to judgments about causal properties of events, it falls short of accounting for cases where thematic roles reflect judgments about dispositional properties of objects. I develop my argument with a case study on a class of verbs that have been called ‘Emission Verbs’ and which are difficult to bring in line with the unaccusativity hypothesis put forward by Perlmutter. Reviewing two diametrically opposed accounts of Emission Verbs in the literature, I (...) show that the thematic-semantic relation between the events described by Emission Verbs and their single arguments cannot be characterized unambiguously in terms of causal properties of events but pertains to dispositional properties residing in the emitter argument. The paper develops a lexical-semantic analysis of Emission Verbs according to which the event described by an Emission Verb is the manifestation of the dispositional property of the emitter argument when appropriate external circumstances obtain. The paper concludes by outlining how the proposed dispositional analysis of Emission Verbs may inform the analysis of the causative alternation. (shrink)
This paper responds to the contributions by Alexander Bird, Nathan Wildman, David Yates, Jennifer McKitrick, Giacomo Giannini & Matthew Tugby, and Jennifer Wang. I react to their comments on my 2015 book Potentiality: From Dispositions to Modality, and in doing so expands on some of the arguments and ideas of the book.
This paper examines the view of abilities to act advanced by Kadri Vihvelin in Causes, Laws, and Free Will. Vihvelin argues that (i) abilities of an important kind are “structurally” like dispositions such as fragility; (ii) ascriptions of dispositions can be analyzed in terms of counterfactual conditionals; (iii) ascriptions of abilities of the kind in question can be analyzed similarly; and (iv) we have the free will we think we have by having abilities of this kind and being in circumstances (...) that are propitious for their exercise. I raise doubt about each of these claims. Further, I argue that even if abilities of the kind in question are dispositions, and even if determinism is compatible with our commonly having unexercised abilities of this kind, the compatibility of determinism and free will remains in question. (shrink)
Many powers metaphysicians postulate both active and passive powers, understood as distinct kinds of intrinsic causal properties of objects. I argue that the category of passive power is superfluous. I also offer a diagnosis of how philosophers are misled to postulate passive powers.
The conditional analysis of dispositions is widely rejected, mainly due to counterexamples in which dispositions are either “finkish” or “masked.” David Lewis proposed a reformed conditional analysis. This view avoids the problem of finkish dispositions, but it fails to solve the problem of masking. I will propose a reformulation of Lewis’ analysis, and I will argue that this reformulation can easily be modified so that it avoids the problem of masking. In the final section, I will address the challenge that (...) some dispositions appear to lack any stimulus condition, and I will briefly turn to the issue of reductionism. (shrink)
In ‘Finkish Dispositions’, David Lewis proposed a revised conditional analysis of dispositions, designed to rule out counterexamples based on finkish dispositions and finkish lacks of dispositions. Bird and Choi have argued that Lewis’s amended analysis is vulnerable to two further types of counterexamples trading on mimicked and masked dispositions. This paper provides a diagnosis of why Lewis’s analysis inherits these problems, and investigates whether the means can be found—in Lewis’s paper or elsewhere—to defend his analysis against the counterexamples. A range (...) of strategies for defending conditional analyses against masking and mimicking counterexamples are assessed. The conclusion is that none of them will save Lewis’s analysis; some strategies fail, while the rest threaten to make Lewis’s amendments redundant. The discussion offers a number of general lessons about how to defend conditional analyses of dispositions. (shrink)
Future-directed intentions, it is widely held, involve behavioral dispositions. But of what kind? Suppose you now intend to Φ at future time t. Are you thereby now disposed to Φ at t no matter what? If so, your intention disposes you to Φ even if around t you will come to believe that Φ-ing would be crazy. And would not that be a crazy intention to have? – Like considerations have led Luca Ferrero and others to believe that only intentions (...) with strong internal conditions are capable of rationality. This paper explores in how far a broadly dispositional view of intention supports their claims. Its first point will come as a surprise: Intentions indeed involve dispositions toward follies in plenty. Natural objections against this bizarre-sounding claim are shown to fail, and standard counterfactual analyses of disposition locutions are shown to underpin it further. However, since the dispositions at issue are pro tanto dispositions, the consequences are not as odd as might be expected: When hedged by reasonable habits to reconsider one’s intentions, dispositions toward follies do not entail any actual crazy behavior. On balance, unconditional intention is therefore found rational after all. Dispositions toward crazy actions need not be crazy dispositions. (shrink)
According to the Simple Conditional Analysis of disposition ascriptions, disposition ascriptions are to be analyzed in terms of counterfactual conditionals. The Simple Conditional Analysis is notoriously vulnerable to counterexamples. In this paper, I introduce a new sort of counterexample to the Simple Conditional Analysis of disposition ascriptions, which I call ‘tricks’. I then explore a number of possible strategies to modify the Simple Conditional Analysis so as to avoid tricks and conclude that, in order to avoid tricks, the associated counterfactual (...) should be evaluated at the closest possible world at which the manifestation of the disposition does not obtain. (shrink)
I present and discuss two logical results. The first shows that a non-trivial counterfactual analysis exists for any contingent proposition that is false in at least two possible worlds. The second result identifies a set of conditions that are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for the success of a counterfactual analysis. I use these results to shed light on the question whether disposition ascribing propositions can be analyzed as Stalnaker-Lewis conditional propositions. The answer is that they can, but, in order (...) for a counterfactual analysis to work, the antecedent and consequent must be related in a particular way, and David Lewis’s Time’s Arrow constraints on comparative world similarity must be relaxed. The upshot is that counterfactual analyses are easy to come by, in principle, even if not in practice. In that sense, it’s easy to be iffy. (shrink)
In this essay I to do three things. First, I discuss a statement from the Tractatus which says that our free will consists in our ignorance of future actions: “The freedom of the will consists in the impossibility of knowing actions that still lie in the future. We could know them only if causality were an inner necessity like that of logical inference.” (5.1362) I think this statement might well be inspired by a claim Moore made in connection with free (...) will in his 1912 book Ethics: “We can hardly ever know for certain beforehand, which choice we actually shall make”. But I think Moore’s claim in favor of free will is not convincing. Second, I discuss a question raised in Philosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein asks what remains if we “subtract” the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm, and he adds in brackets: “Are the kinaesthetic sensations my willing?” (621) This added reflection is a reaction to ideas put forward by William James. Wittgenstein opposes these ideas. He argues that we should not think of the will as a cause at all, kinaesthetic or not, but rather as something embedded in, and constituted by, certain contexts of learning, expectation, practice, and lack of surprise. This is a strong claim. He also returns to the question about the predictability of the future: “When people talk about the possibility of foreknowledge of the future they always forget the fact of the prediction of one’s own voluntary movements” (629). The question is whether Wittgenstein has solved, or dissolved, the problem of free will. Some think that this is the case. I doubt it is. This is the third point I wish to discuss. (shrink)
It appears that light may be thrown on the nature of moral principles if they are construed as moral laws analogous to ceteris-paribus laws of nature. Luke Robinson objects that the analogy either cannot explain how moral principles are necessary or cannot explain how obligations can be pro-tanto; and that a dispositional account of moral obligation has explanatory superiority over one in terms of moral laws. I explain the analogy, construing laws of nature as necessary relationships after the fashion of (...) William Kneale and Karl Popper. I then show that Robinson’s objections are mistaken and that if the difference between a dispositional account and a law account is not merely verbal, then it is the law account that is superior. I also dispel the common confusion between the necessity of laws and the existence of forces. (shrink)
The expression conditional fallacy identifies a family of arguments deemed to entail odd and false consequences for notions defined in terms of counterfactuals. The antirealist notion of truth is typically defined in terms of what a rational enquirer or a community of rational enquirers would believe if they were suitably informed. This notion is deemed to entail, via the conditional fallacy, odd and false propositions, for example that there necessarily exists a rational enquirer. If these consequences do indeed follow from (...) the antirealist notion of truth, alethic antirealism should probably be rejected. In this paper we analyse the conditional fallacy from a semantic (i.e. model-theoretic) point of view. This allows us to identify with precision the philosophical commitments that ground the validity of this type of argument. We show that the conditional fallacy arguments against alethic antirealism are valid only if controversial metaphysical assumptions are accepted. We suggest that the antirealist is not committed to the conditional fallacy because she is not committed to some of these assumptions. (shrink)
The Simple Counterfactual Analysis (SCA) was once considered the most promising analysis of disposition ascriptions. According to SCA, disposition ascriptions are to be analyzed in terms of counterfactual conditionals. In the last few decades, however, SCA has become the target of a battery of counterexamples. In all counterexamples, something seems to be interfering with a certain object’s having or not having a certain disposition thus making the truth-values of the disposition ascription and of its associated counterfactual come apart. Intuitively, however, (...) it would seem that, if all interferences were absent, the disposition ascription and its associated conditional would have the same truth-value. Although this idea may seem obvious, it is far from obvious how to implement it. In fact, it has become widely assumed that the content of qualifying ceteris paribus clauses (such as ‘if all interferences were absent’) cannot be specified in a clear and non-circular manner. In this paper, I will argue that this assumption is wrong. I will develop an analysis of disposition ascriptions, the Interference-Free Counterfactual Analysis, which relies on a clear and non-circular definition of the notion of interference and avoids the standard counterexamples to SCA while vindicating the intuition that disposition ascriptions and counterfactual conditionals are intimately related. (Please note that an erratum has been issued for the published version of this paper. It is recommended to read the self-archived version of the paper.). (shrink)
In his book "Freedom of the Will: A Conditional Analysis", Ferenc Huoranszki tries to defend improved and amended version of the conditional analysis of free will. In my critical review, taking chapters 2 and 4 of his book as the most crucial for his theory, I try to show that incompatibilism is still more persuasive and that amended conditional analysis is not compatible with determinism. Despite my criticism, I consider this book as a significant contribution to the free will debate.
It is a familiar point that many ordinary dispositions are multi-track, that is, not fully and adequately characterisable by a single conditional. In this paper, I argue that both the extent and the implications of this point have been severely underestimated. First, I provide new arguments to show that every disposition whose stimulus condition is a determinable quantity must be infinitely multi-track. Secondly, I argue that this result should incline us to move away from the standard assumption that dispositions are (...) in some way importantly linked to conditionals, as presupposed by the debate about various versions of the ‘conditional analysis’ of dispositions. I introduce an alternative conception of dispositionality, which is motivated by linguistic observations about dispositional adjectives and links dispositions to possibility instead of conditionals. I argue that, because of the multi-track nature of dispositions, the possibility-based conception of dispositions is to be preferred. (shrink)
Response-dependence theses are usually formulated in terms of a priori true biconditionals of roughly the form ‘something, x, falls under the concept ‘F’ ↔ x would elicit response R from subjects S under conditions C’. Such formulations are vulnerable to conditional fallacy problems; counterexamples threaten whenever the C-conditions’ coming to obtain might alter the object with respect to F. Crispin Wright has suggested that such problems can be avoided by placing the C-conditions in a proviso. This ensures that any changes (...) triggered by the C-conditions’ coming to obtain will be irrelevant to the truth of the biconditional. I argue that this move leaves the equations vulnerable to counterexamples of a slightly different kind : Cases where the change is triggered, not by the C-conditions’ coming to obtain, but by the response. I consider two ways to resist these counterexamples, and argue that both are insufficient. The upshot is a challenge that must be met if provisoed biconditionals are to serve their purpose. (shrink)
Choi (Philosophia, 38(3), 2010) argues that my counterexamples in Lee (Philosophia, 38(3), 2010) to the simple conditional analysis of disposition ascription are bogus counterexamples. In this paper, I argue that Choi’s arguments are not satisfactory and that my examples are genuine counterexamples.
Manley and Wasserman (2008) have provided a convincing case against analyses of dispositions in terms of one conditional, and a very interesting positive proposal that links any disposition to a ‘suitable proportion’ of a particular set of precise conditionals. I focus on their positive proposal and ask just how precise those conditionals are to be. I argue that, contrary to what Manley and Wasserman imply in their paper, they must be maximally specific, describing in their antecedents complete centred worlds. This (...) suggests a natural semantics for dispositional expressions, which I briefly explore to argue that it lacks uniformity. I end by suggesting a variation on Manley and Wasserman's view which would preserve uniformity, though at the cost of some new puzzling questions. (shrink)
This paper discusses Lee’s argument that Lewis’s reformed conditional analysis of dispositions is preferable to the simple conditional analysis of dispositions. Lee’s argument is basically that there are some examples that can be adequately handled by Lewis’s analysis but cannot by the simple conditional analysis of dispositions. But I will reveal that, when carefully understood, they spell no trouble for the simple conditional analysis of dispositions, failing to serve a motivating role for Lewis’s analysis.
D. Lewis proposed the reformed conditional analysis of disposition to handle Martin's influential counterexamples to the simple counterfactual analysis. Some philosophers, however, argue that the mere fact that the reformed conditional analysis of disposition can handle Martin's counterexamples should not be regarded as a reason to prefer the reformed conditional analysis to the simple analysis. In this paper, I argue that the reformed version should be preferred not because it can handle Martin's counterexamples but because there are other counterexamples to (...) the simple conditional analysis. (shrink)
It is generally agreed that dispositions cannot be analyzed in terms of simple subjunctive conditionals (because of what are called “masked dispositions” and “finkish dispositions”). I here defend a qualified subjunctive account of dispositions according to which an object is disposed to Φ when conditions C obtain if and only if, if conditions C were to obtain, then the object would Φ ceteris paribus . I argue that this account does not fall prey to the objections that have been raised (...) in the literature. (shrink)
In this thesis, I develop a nonreductive and general conception of potentiality, and explore the prospects of a realist account of possibility based on this account of potentiality. Potentialities are properties of individual objects; they include dispositions such as fragility and abilities such as the ability to play the piano. Potentialities are individuated by their manifestation alone. In order to provide a unified account of potentialities, I argue in chapter 2 that dispositions, contrary to philosophical orthodoxy, are best understood in (...) terms only of their manifestations (as disposi- tions to ...), rather than in terms of a stimulus and a manifestation condition (as dispositions to ... if ...). Chapter 3 provides some preliminary motivation for a nonreductive and gen- eral account of potentiality, and chapter 4 develops such an account. The guiding question is how far the notion of potentiality can be extended from the initial ex- amples of familiar dispositions and abilities, and it is argued that it can be extended very far. Various features of potentialities are explored, among them extrinsicality, iterations of potentiality, and the behaviour of potentiality with regard to logical equivalence. In chapter 5, the account is set to work in providing the outlines and a defense of a potentiality-based account of possibility. The basic idea of such an account is that it is possible that p just in case some thing has a potentiality for p. The account is defended against the objection that there may not be enough potential- ities to ground all the possibilities that there are. Finally, in chapter 6, a logic of potentiality is formulated and the logic of possibility derived from it, showing that the potentiality-based account of possibility is formally adequate: it provides pos- sibility with the formal features that modal logicians have studied. I conclude that the proposed account of possibility is a promising research programme. (shrink)
Michael Fara's ‘habitual analysis’ of disposition ascriptions is equivalent to a kind of ceteris paribus conditional analysis which has no evident advantage over Martin's well known and simpler analysis. I describe an unsatisfactory hypothetical response to Martin's challenge, which is lacking in just the same respect as the analysis considered by Martin; Fara's habitual analysis is equivalent to this hypothetical analysis. The feature of the habitual analysis that is responsible for this cannot be harmlessly excised, for the resulting analysis would (...) be subject to familiar counter-examples. (shrink)
The idea that dispositions are an intrinsic matter has been popular among contemporary philosophers of dispositions. In this paper I will first state this idea as exactly as possible. I will then examine whether it poses any threat to the two current versions of the conditional analysis of dispositions, namely, the simple and reformed conditional analysis of dispositions. The upshot is that the intrinsic nature of dispositions, when properly understood, doesn't spell trouble for either of the two versions of the (...) conditional analysis of dispositions. Along the way, I will propose an extensionally correct and practically useful criterion for identifying nomically intrinsic dispositions and criticize one objection raised by Lewis against the simple conditional analysis of dispositions. (shrink)
I argue for the existence of intrinsic Finks, Masks, and Mimics, and argue that these undermine certain recent attempts to revive simple conditional analyses of dispositions. I present some examples of intrinsic Finks, Masks, and Mimics, and argue that the example of an intrinsic fink I present has certain advantages over the examples of intrinsic finks recently suggested by Randolph Clarke. I conclude that the existence of such Finks, Masks, and Mimics, undermine a recent attempt by Sungho Choi to distinguish (...) dispositional properties from categorical properties. (shrink)
In recent decades, the analysis of causal relations has become a topic of central importance in analytic philosophy. More recently, dispositional properties have also become objects of intense study. Both of these phenomena appear to be intimately related to counterfactual conditionals and other modal phenomena such as objective chance, but little work has been done to directly relate them. This collection contains ten essays by scholars working in both metaphysics and in philosophy of science, examining the relation between dispositional and (...) causal concepts. (shrink)
Disposition ascription has been discussed a good deal over the last few decades, as has the revisionary metaphysical view of ordinary, persisting objects known as 'fourdimensionalism'. However, philosophers have not merged these topics and asked whether four-dimensional objects can be proper subjects of dispositional predicates. This paper seeks to remedy this oversight. It argues that, by and large, four-dimensional objects are not suited to take dispositional predicates.
For the last several decades, dispositional properties have been one of the main topics in metaphysics. Still, however, there is little agreement among contemporary metaphysicians on the nature of dispositional properties. 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)
C. B. Martin's finkish cases raise one of the most serious objections to conditional analyses of dispositions. David Lewis's reformed analysis is widely considered the most promising response to the objection. Despite its sophistication, however, the reformed analysis still provokes questions concerning its ability to handle finkish cases. They focus on the applicability of the analysis to 'baseless' dispositions. After sketching Martin's objection and the reformed analysis, I argue that all dispositions have causal bases which the analysis can unproblematically invoke.
Analyses of dispositional ascriptions in terms of conditional statements famously confront the problems of finks and masks. We argue that conditional analyses of dispositions, even those tailored to avoid finks and masks, face five further problems. These are the problems of: (i) Achilles' heels, (ii) accidental closeness, (iii) comparatives, (iv) explaining context sensitivity, and (v) absent stimulus conditions. We conclude by offering a proposal that avoids all seven of these problems.
Previous theories of the relationship between dispositions and conditionals are unable to account for the fact that dispositions come in degrees. We propose a fix for this problem that has the added benefit of avoiding the classic problems of finks and masks.
To say that this lump of sugar is soluble is to say that it would dissolve, if submerged anywhere, at any time and in any parcel of water. To say that this sleeper knows French, is to say that if, for example, he is ever addressed in French, or shown any French newspaper, he responds pertinently in French, acts appropriately or translates correctly into his own tongue.
Lewis claims that Martin’s cases indeed refute the simple conditional analysis of dispositions and proposes the reformed conditional analysis that is purported to overcome them. In this paper I will first argue that Lewis’s defense of the reformed analysis can be understood to invoke the concepts of disposition-specific stimulus and manifestation. I will go on to argue that advocates of the simple analysis, just like Lewis, can also defend their analysis from alleged counterexamples including Martin’s cases by invoking the concepts (...) of disposition-specific stimulus and manifestation. This means that Lewis’s own necessary defense of the reformed analysis invalidates his motivation of it. Finally, I will argue that we have a good reason to favor the simple analysis over Lewis’s analysis. (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.
Objects have dispositions. As Nelson Goodman put it, “a thing is full of threats and promises”. But sometimes those threats go unfulﬁlled, and the promises unkept. Sometimes the dispositions of objects fail to manifest themselves, even when their conditions of manifestation obtain. Pieces of wood, disposed to burn when heated, do not burn when heated in a vacuum chamber. And pastries, disposed to go bad when left lying around too long, won’t do so if coated with lacquer and put on (...) display in a baker ’s window. Any account of what a disposition is, or of what it takes for an object to have a disposition, should be compatible with these commonplace observations. To date, I believe, no adequate account of dispositions has been given, and the aim of this paper is to defend one. (shrink)
In this paper I will first consider Bird's cases against the conditional analysis of dispositions and defend them from Gundersen's objection. This does not mean that I believe that Bird's cases are successful. To the contrary, I take it that we can save the conditional analysis from Bird's cases by taking Lewis's two-step approach to dispositions. However, I will go on to argue that if Bird's cases are supplemented with the assumption that dispositions are intrinsic matter, they are able to (...) do what they are intended to do. (shrink)