Dispositions and Laws

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian J. Boge (Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Aachen University of Technology)
About this topic
Summary One might say that things possess dispositional properties (that these grains are soluble in water, for example) because they have a chemical or physical substructure (here: NaCl) which figures in some law of nature (here: that all NaCl molecules are torn by H2O molecules into Na+ and Cl-). One might go the other way and turn this story on its head: there are laws in nature because objects behave according to the dispositions they have.
Key works The first view used to be the one modern philosophy of science started with: Kaila 1945Carnap 1937. Also, if not directly visible, Lewis's account takes ultimately this route: Lewis 1997. The contrary view is fairly recent and held by, for example: Bird 2007Mumford 2004Ellis 2007.
Introductions Carroll 1994
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138 found
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  1. God and Dispositional Essentialism: An Account of the Laws of Nature.Dani Adams - forthcoming - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.
    It is common to appeal to governing laws of nature in order to explain the existence of natural regularities. Classical theism, however, maintains the sovereignty thesis: everything distinct from God is created by him and is under his guidance and control. It follows from this that God must somehow be responsible for natural laws and regularities. Therefore, theists need an account of the relation between regularities, laws, and God. I examine competing accounts of laws of nature and conclude that dispositional (...)
  2. How General is Generalized Scientific Essentialism?Erik Anderson - 2005 - Synthese 144 (3):373-379.
    I look at a recent argument offered in defense of a doctrine which I will call generalized scientific essentialism. This is the doctrine according to which, not only are some facts about substance composition metaphysically necessary, but, in addition, some facts about substance behavior are metaphysically necessary. More specifically, so goes the argument, not only is water necessarily composed of H2O and salt is necessarily composed of NaCl, but, in addition, salt necessarily dissolves in water. If this argument is sound, (...)
  3. Dispositions: A Debate.D. M. Armstrong - 1996 - Routledge.
    Dispositions are essential to our understanding of the world. IDispositions: A Debate is an extended dialogue between three distinguished philosophers - D.M. Armstrong, C.B. Martin and U.T. Place - on the many problems associated with dispositions, which reveals their own distinctive accounts of the nature of dispositions. These are then linked to other issues such as the nature of mind, matter, universals, existence, laws of nature and causation.
  4. Are Dispositions Ultimate? Reply to Franklin.D. M. Armstrong - 1988 - Philosophical Quarterly 38 (150):84-86.
  5. What is a Law of Nature? The Broken-Symmetry Story.Yuri Balashov - 2002 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (4):459-473.
    I argue that the contemporary interplay of cosmology and particle physics in their joint effort to understand the processes at work during the first moments of the big bang has important implications for understanding the nature of lawhood. I focus on the phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry breaking responsible for generating the masses of certain particles. This phenomenon presents problems for the currently fashionable Dretske-Tooley-Armstrong theory and strongly favors a rival nomic ontology of causal powers.
  6. What is a Law of Nature?: The Broken-Symmetry Story.Yuri Balashov - 2002 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 (4):459-473.
  7. The Ultimate Argument Against Dispositional Monist Accounts of Laws.S. Barker & B. Smart - 2012 - Analysis 72 (4):714-722.
    Alexander Bird argues that David Armstrong’s necessitarian conception of physical modality and laws of nature generates a vicious regress with respect to necessitation. We show that precisely the same regress afflicts Bird’s dispositional-monist theory, and indeed, related views, such as that of Mumford and Anjum. We argue that dispositional monism is basically Armstrongian necessitarianism modified to allow for a thesis about property identity.
  8. Lawful Mimickers.Umut Baysan - 2017 - Analysis 77 (3):488-494.
    The nomic view of dispositions holds that properties confer dispositions on their bearers with nomological necessity. The argument against nomic dispositions challenges the nomic view: if the nomic view is true, then objects don't have dispositions, but 'mimic' them. This paper presents an explication of disposition conferral which shows that the nomic view is not vulnerable to this objection.
  9. Contingent Laws Rule: Reply to Bird.H. Beebee - 2002 - Analysis 62 (3):252-255.
    In a recent paper (Bird 2001), Alexander Bird argues that the law that common salt dissolves in water is metaphysically necessary - and he does so without presupposing dispositionalism about properties. If his argument were sound, it would thus show that at least one law of nature is meta- physically necessary, and it would do so without illicitly presupposing a position (dispositionalism) that is already committed to a necessitarian view of laws. I shall argue that Bird's argument is unsuccesful.
  10. Mesta Panta Semeion. Plotinus, Leibniz and Berkeley on Determinism.Daniele Bertini - 2009 - In Panayiota Vassilopoulou & Stephen Clark (eds.), Late Antique Epistemology. Palgrave-Macmillan.
    Determinism is the view that any event is determined by previous events and the laws of nature. My claim is that Plotinus's, Leibniz's and Berkeley's rejection of determinism is structurally similar. Indeed, while determinism holds that phenomenal changes (ontologically) depend only on the way the laws of Nature apply to the previous conditions of the states of the world, the three philosophers all argues for the claim that the laws of Nature are not independent on the mind (the Hypostasis of (...)
  11. Scientific Ellisianism.John Bigelow - 1999 - In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 45--59.
  12. The World as One of a Kind: Natural Necessity and Laws of Nature.John Bigelow, Brian Ellis & Caroline Lierse - 1992 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43 (3):371-388.
  13. Critical Notice of Tim Crane, Ed. Dispositions: A Debate by D.M. Armstrong, C.B. Martin and U.T. Place.John Bigelow & Robert Pargetter - 1999 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 29 (4):619-633.
  14. On Whether Some Laws Are Necessary.A. Bird - 2002 - Analysis 62 (3):257-270.
    In Bird 2001 I argued that a law that might seem to many to be contingent is in fact necessary. In short the argument is this. Given the existence of salt and water, Coulomb’s law of electrostatic attraction is sufficient to make the former dissolve in the latter. So any possible world in which salt failed to dissolve in water would be one in which Coulomb’s law is false. However, it is also the case that the existence of salt depends (...)
  15. Review of Alexander Bird, Nature's Metaphysics: Laws and Properties[REVIEW]Alexander Bird - 2008 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (6).
    This is a rewarding book. In terms of area, it has one foot firmly planted in metaphysics and the other just as firmly set in the philosophy of science. Nature's Metaphysics is distinctive for its thorough and detailed defense of fundamental, natural properties as essentially dispositional and for its description of how these dispositional properties are thus suited to sustain the laws of nature as (metaphysically) necessary truths.
  16. The Dispositionalist Conception of Laws.Alexander Bird - 2005 - Foundations of Science 10 (4):353-70.
    This paper sketches a dispositionalist conception of laws and shows how the dispositionalist should respond to certain objections. The view that properties are essentially dispositional is able to provide an account of laws that avoids the problems that face the two views of laws (the regularity and the contingent nomic necessitation views) that regard properties as categorical and laws as contingent. I discuss and reject the objections that (i) this view makes laws necessary whereas they are contingent; (ii) this view (...)
  17. Laws and Essences.Alexander Bird - 2005 - Ratio 18 (4):437–461.
    Those who favour an ontology based on dispositions are thereby able to provide a dispositional essentialist account of the laws of nature. In part 1 of this paper I sketch the dispositional essentialist conception of properties and the concomitant account of laws. In part 2, I characterise various claims about the modal character of properties that fall under the heading ‘quidditism’ and which are consequences of the categoricalist view of properties, which is the alternative to the dispositional essentialist view. I (...)
  18. David Armstrong, Charlie Martin, and Ullin Place, Edited by Tim Crane Dispositions: A Debate; Stephen Mumford Dispositions.Alexander Bird - 2001 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (1):137-149.
  19. Nature's Metaphysics: Laws and Properties (by Alexander Bird). [REVIEW]Simon Bostock - 2010 - Philosophy 85 (1):152-157.
  20. Stephen Mumford Laws in Nature London, Routledge, 2004 Hardback £60.00 ISBN 0-415-31128-. [REVIEW]Simon Bostock - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (2):449-452.
  21. Stephen Mumford Laws In Nature London, Routledge, 2004 Hardback £60.00 ISBN 0-415-31128-4. [REVIEW]Simon Bostock - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (2):449-452.
  22. The Necessity of Natural Laws.Simon Bostock - 2001 - Dissertation, University of Sheffield
    I argue that the best explanation of law-like regularity is that properties are universals and that universals are irreducibly dispositional entities.
  23. Functionalism and The Independence Problems.Darren Bradley - 2013 - Noûs 47 (1):545-557.
    The independence problems for functionalism stem from the worry that if functional properties are defined in terms of their causes and effects then such functional properties seem to be too intimately connected to these purported causes and effects. I distinguish three different ways the independence problems can be filled out – in terms of necessary connections, analytic connections and vacuous explanations. I argue that none of these present serious problems. Instead, they bring out some important and over-looked features of functionalism.
  24. Laws of nature and causal powers: Two illusory solutions.Sebastián Briceño - 2015 - Alpha (Osorno) 41:73-85.
    La metafísica de la Superveniencia Humeana ha sido atacada por dos alternativas explícitamente anti-Humeanas: el Realismo Nómico y el Esencialismo Disposicional. Cada una de estas alternativas ofrece una explicación ontológica de la actual distribución de instanciaciones de primer orden. Ambas sostienen, contra el Humeano, que esta distribución no es un accidente metafísico. En este artículo argumento que las explicaciones ofrecidas por ellas son ilusorias. -/- The metaphysics of Humean Supervenience has been attacked by two explicitly anti-Humean alternatives: Nomic Realism and (...)
  25. Metaphysics and Scientific Realism: Essays in Honour of David Malet Armstrong.Francesco F. Calemi (ed.) - 2016 - De Gruyter.
  26. How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
    In this sequence of philosophical essays about natural science, the author argues that fundamental explanatory laws, the deepest and most admired successes of modern physics, do not in fact describe regularities that exist in nature. Cartwright draws from many real-life examples to propound a novel distinction: that theoretical entities, and the complex and localized laws that describe them, can be interpreted realistically, but the simple unifying laws of basic theory cannot.
  27. Are Laws of Nature Consistent with Contingency?Nancy Cartwright & Pedro Merlussi - 2018 - In Walter Ott & Lydia Patton (eds.), Laws of Nature. Oxford, UK:
    Are the laws of nature consistent with contingency about what happens in the world? That depends on what the laws of nature actually are, but it also depends on what they are like. The latter is the concern of this chapter, which looks at three views that are widely endorsed: ‘Humean’ regularity accounts, laws as relations among universals, and disposition/powers accounts. Given an account of what laws are, what follows about how much contingency, and of what kinds, laws allow? In (...)
  28. Getting Away From Governance: A Structuralist Approach to Laws and Symmetries.Angelo Cei & Steven French - unknown
    Dispositionalist accounts of scientific laws are currently at the forefront of discussions in the metaphysics of science. However, Mumford has presented such accounts with the following dilemma: if laws are to have a governing role, then they cannot be grounded in the relevant dispositions; if on the other hand, they are so grounded, then they cannot perform such a role. Mumford’s solution is drastic: to do away with laws as metaphysically substantive entities altogether. Dispositionalist accounts are also deficient in that (...)
  29. Cartwright on Fundamental Laws: A Response to Clarke.Alan Chalmers - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (1):150 – 152.
  30. Emergentism and the Contingent Solubility of Salt.Lok‐Chi Chan - forthcoming - Theoria.
    Alexander Bird (2001; 2002; 2007) offers a powerful argument showing that, regardless of whether necessitarianism or contingentism about laws is true, salt necessarily dissolves in water. The argument is that the same laws of nature that are necessary for the constitution of salt necessitate the solubility of salt. This paper shows that Bird’s argument faces a serious objection if the possibility of emergentism – in particular, C. D. Broad’s account – is taken into account. The idea is (roughly) that some (...)
  31. Scientific Essentialism.L. Clapp - 2002 - Philosophical Review 111 (4):589-594.
    Scientific Essentialism defends the view that the fundamental laws of nature depend on the essential properties of the things on which they are said to operate, and are therefore not independent of them. These laws are not imposed upon the world by God, the forces of nature, or anything else, but rather are immanent in the world. Ellis argues that ours is a dynamic world consisting of more or less transient objects that are constantly interacting with each other, and whose (...)
  32. Only Powers Can Confer Dispositions.Gabriele Contessa - 2015 - Philosophical Quarterly 65 (259):160-176.
    According to power theorists, properties are powers—i.e. they necessarily confer on their bearers certain dispositions. Although the power theory is increasingly gaining popularity, a vast majority of analytic metaphysicians still favors what I call ‘the nomic theory’—i.e. the view according to which what dispositions a property confers on its bearers is contingent on what the laws of nature happen to be. This paper argues that the nomic theory is inconsistent, for, if it were correct, then properties would not confer any (...)
  33. Can Dispositional Essences Ground the Laws of Nature?Richard Corry - 2011 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (2):263 - 275.
    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-dispositional properties, 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 (...)
  34. How is Scientific Analysis Possible?Richard Corry - 2009 - In Toby Handfield (ed.), Dispositions and Causes. Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press ;.
    One of the most powerful tools in science is the analytic method, whereby we seek to understand complex systems by studying simpler sub-systems from which the complex is composed. If this method is to be successful, something about the sub-systems must remain invariant as we move from the relatively isolated conditions in which we study them, to the complex conditions in which we want to put our knowledge to use. This paper asks what this invariant could be. The paper shows (...)
  35. Dispositions: A Debate.Tim Crane, D. M. Armstrong & C. B. Martin - 1996 - New York: Routledge.
    Dispositions are essential to our understanding of the world. Dispositions: A Debate is an extended dialogue between three distinguished philosophers - D.M. Armstrong, C.B. Martin and U.T. Place - on the many problems associated with dispositions, which reveals their own distinctive accounts of the nature of dispositions. These are then linked to other issues such as the nature of mind, matter, universals, existence, laws of nature and causation.
  36. Recent Work on Dispositions.Troy Cross - 2012 - Analysis 72 (1):115-124.
  37. Debating Dispositions. Issues in Metaphysics, Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind.Gregor Damschen, Robert Schnepf & Karsten Stueber (eds.) - 2009 - de Gruyter.
    The contributions of this volume analyze the ancient foundations of the discussion about disposition, examine the problem of disposition within the context of ...
  38. Metaphysics in Science.Alice Drewery (ed.) - 2006 - Wiley-Blackwell.
    This book presents work at the forefront of scholarly debate about the relevance of substantial metaphysical theories to science. Responds in particular to recent publications by Brian Ellis on scientific essentialism, especially on the topics of laws, natural kinds and realism. Contains a new paper by Brian Ellis, commentary and criticism from philosophers on Ellis’s work, and a reply by Ellis to his critics.
  39. Essentialism and the Necessity of the Laws of Nature.Alice Drewery - 2005 - Synthese 144 (3):381-396.
    In this paper I discuss and evaluate different arguments for the view that the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. I conclude that essentialist arguments from the nature of natural kinds fail to establish that essences are ontologically more basic than laws, and fail to offer an a priori argument for the necessity of all causal laws. Similar considerations carry across to the argument from the dispositionalist view of properties, which may end up placing unreasonable constraints on property identity across (...)
  40. Laws of Nature Don't Have Ceteris Paribus Clauses, They Are Ceteris Paribus Clauses.Travis Dumsday - 2013 - Ratio 26 (2):134-147.
    Laws of nature are properly (if controversially) conceived as abstract entities playing a governing role in the physical universe. Dispositionalists typically hold that laws of nature are not real, or at least are not fundamental, and that regularities in the physical universe are grounded in the causal powers of objects. By contrast, I argue that dispositionalism implies nomic realism: since at least some dispositions have ceteris paribus clauses incorporating uninstantiated universals, and these ceteris paribus clauses help to determine their dispositions' (...)
  41. Scientific Essentialism.Brian Ellis - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.
    Scientific Essentialism defends the view that the fundamental laws of nature depend on the essential properties of the things on which they are said to operate, and are therefore not independent of them. These laws are not imposed upon the world by God, the forces of nature or anything else, but rather are immanent in the world. Ellis argues that ours is a dynamic world consisting of more or less transient objects which are constantly interacting with each other, and whose (...)
  42. Causal Powers and Laws of Nature.Brian Ellis - 1999 - In Howard Sankey (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 19--34.
  43. An Essentialist Perspective on the Problem of Induction.Brian Ellis - 1998 - Principia: Revista Internacional de Epistemologia 2 (1):103-124.
    If one believes, as Hume did, that all events are loose and separate, then the problem of induction is probably insoluble. Anything could happen. But if one thinks, as scientific essentialists do, that the laws of nature are immanent in the world, and depend on the essential natures of things, then there are strong constraints on what could possibly happen. Given these constraints, the problem of induction may be soluble. For these constraints greatly strengthen the case for conceptual and theoretical (...)
  44. Humean Metaphysics Versus a Metaphysics of Powers.Michael Esfeld - 2010 - In Gerhard Ernst & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Time, Chance and Reduction: Philosophical Aspects of Statistical Mechanics. Cambridge University Press. pp. 119.
  45. DM Armstrong, CB Martin and UT Place, Dispositions: A Debate Reviewed By.Jeremy Fantl - 1997 - Philosophy in Review 17 (2):80-82.
  46. The Necessity of Nature.Alfred Freddoso - 1986 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 11 (1):215-242.
    This paper lays out the main contours of an objectivistic account of natural necessity that locates its source within natural substances themselves. The key claims are that what occurs by a necessity of nature constitutes the culmination of deterministic natural tendencies and that these tendencies are themselves rooted in the natures or essences of natural substances. The paper concludes by discussing the notion of a law of nature as it emerges on this account.
  47. Metaphysics of Laws and Ontology of Time.Cord Friebe - unknown
    At first glance, every metaphysics of laws can be combined with every ontology of time. In contrast, the paper intends to show that Humeanism requires eternalism and that Power metaphysics must presuppose an existentially dynamical view of temporal existence, i.e. growing block or presentism. The presented arguments turn out to be completely independent of whether the laws of nature are deterministic or probabilistic: the world is non-productive and static or productively dynamical, the future be ‘open’ or not.
  48. Causal Powers as Metaphysical Grounds for Laws or Nature.Michael Ghins - 2014 - Epistemologia 37 (2):183-201.
  49. Laws of Nature: Do We Need a Metaphysics?Michel Ghins - 2007 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 11 (2):127-150.
    In this paper, I briefly present the regularity and necessity views and assess their difficulties. I construe scientific laws as universal propositions satisfied by empirically successful scientific models and made — approximately — true by the real systems represented, albeit partially, by these models. I also conceive a scientific theory as a set of models together with a set of propositions, some of which are laws. A scientific law is a universal proposition or statement that belongs to a scientific theory. (...)
  50. Capacities, Universality, and Singularity.Stuart M. Glennan - 1997 - Philosophy of Science 64 (4):605-626.
    In this paper I criticize Cartwright's analysis of capacities and offer an alternative analysis. I argue that Cartwright's attempt to connect capacities to her condition CC fails because individuals can exercise capacities only in certain contexts. My own analysis emphasizes three features of capacities: 1) Capacities belong to individuals; 2) Capacities are typically not metaphysically fundamental properties of individuals, but can be explained by referring to structural properties of individuals; and 3) Laws are best understood as ascriptions of capacities.
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