Dispositions and Laws

Edited by Markus Schrenk (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
Assistant editor: Florian J. Boge (Bergische Universität Wuppertal)
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 2002Ellis 2001.
Introductions Carroll 1994
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158 found
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1 — 50 / 158
  1. added 2020-04-20
    Non‐Humean Theories of Natural Necessity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (5):1-1.
    Non‐Humean theories of natural necessity invoke modally‐laden primitives to explain why nature exhibits lawlike regularities. However, they vary in the primitives they posit and in their subsequent accounts of laws of nature and related phenomena (including natural properties, natural kinds, causation, counterfactuals, and the like). This article provides a taxonomy of non‐Humean theories, discusses influential arguments for and against them, and describes some ways in which differences in goals and methods can motivate different versions of non‐Humeanism (and, for that matter, (...)
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  2. added 2020-04-17
    Soft Selling a Powers-Friendly Ontology. [REVIEW]Vassilis Livanios - forthcoming - Metascience:1-4.
  3. added 2020-04-14
    A Theory of Constitutive Tropes.Anthony Parisi - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Iowa
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  4. added 2020-03-17
    The Case Against Powers.Walter Ott - forthcoming - In Stathis Psillos, Benjamin Hill & Henrik Lagerlund (eds.), Causal Powers in Science: Blending Historical and Conceptual Perspectives. Oxford University Press.
    Powers ontologies are currently enjoying a resurgence. This would be dispiriting news for the moderns; in their eyes, to imbue bodies with powers is to slide back into the scholastic slime from which they helped philosophy crawl. I focus on Descartes’s ‘little souls’ argument, which points to a genuine and, I think persisting, defect in powers theories. The problem is that an Aristotelian power is intrinsic to whatever has it. Once this move is accepted, it becomes very hard to see (...)
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  5. added 2020-02-24
    Powerful Properties, Powerless Laws.Heather Demarest - 2017 - In Jonathan D. Jacobs (ed.), Causal Powers. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. pp. 38-53.
    I argue that the best scientific package is anti-Humean in its ontology, but Humean in its laws. This is because potencies and the best system account of laws complement each other surprisingly well. If there are potencies, then the BSA is the most plausible account of the laws of nature. Conversely, if the BSA is the correct theory of laws, then formulating the laws in terms of potencies rather than categorical properties avoids three serious objections: the mismatch objection, the impoverished (...)
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  6. added 2020-01-10
    Individuation and Explanation: A Problem for Dispositionalism.Tyler Hildebrand - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-21.
    According to dispositionalism, fundamental properties are dispositions—powers that don’t reduce to other properties, laws, or anything else. As dispositions manifest, natural regularities result, so this view appears to explain the uniformity of nature. However, in this paper I’ll argue that there are types of regularities that can’t be explained by dispositionalism. The basic idea is this. All accounts of fundamental dispositions endow properties with a certain sort of structure. This allows explanations of only those regularities that align with such structures. (...)
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  7. added 2020-01-09
    No God, No Powers.James Orr - 2019 - International Philosophical Quarterly 59 (4):411-426.
    One common feature of debates about the best metaphysical analysis of putatively lawful phenomena is the suspicion that nomic realists who locate the modal force of such phenomena in quasi-causal necessitation relations between universals are working with a model of law that cannot convincingly erase its theological pedigree. Nancy Cartwright distills this criticism into slogan form: no God, no laws. Some have argued that a more plausible alternative for nomic realists who reject theism is to ground laws of nature in (...)
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  8. added 2020-01-09
    Nomological Resemblance.Robin Stenwall - 2013 - Metaphysica 14 (1):31-46.
    Laws of nature concern the natural properties of things. Newton’s law of gravity states that the gravitational force between objects is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of their distance; Coulomb’s law states a similar functional dependency between charged particles. Each of these properties confers a power to act as specified by the function of the laws. Consequently, properties of the same quantity confer resembling powers. Any theory that takes powers seriously must account (...)
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  9. added 2019-12-30
    Against the metaphysical necessity of the law 'salt dissolves in water' / Contra a necessidade metafísica da lei 'o sal se dissolve em água'.Rodrigo Cid - 2010 - Abstracta : Linguagem, Mente E Ação 6:65-70.
    In this paper, I intend to argue against Alexander Bird‟s thesis (2001) that the law salt dissolves in water is metaphysically necessary. I briefly indicate Bird‟s argument for the necessity of such law, and then I provide a counter-argument to his thesis. In a general way, Bird wants to show that the existence of certain substances depends on the truth of certain laws, and that because of this the existence of such substances implies the existence of such laws. That would (...)
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  10. added 2019-11-16
    Local Qualities.Elizabeth Miller - 2019 - In Karen Bennett & Dean Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. pp. 224-241.
    For Humean atomists, cosmic contents supervene on a spatiotemporal mosaic of modally insulated, freely recombinable local qualities. One piecemeal subspecies of Humean atomism promises more than global supervenience—somehow or other—on a separable base; it constrains how exactly elemental inputs yield everything else. Roughly, the distribution of basic local qualities across elements in one part of our cosmos metaphysically suffices for the complete local physical state of that part: anything sharing this part’s basic elemental decoration should share its more complete contents, (...)
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  11. added 2019-10-28
    Five Sources of Contingency for Dispositionalism.Michele Paolini Paoletti - 2020 - Metaphysica 21 (1):9-30.
    Law dispositionalism is the doctrine according to which laws of nature are grounded on powers/dispositions. In this article, I shall examine how certain laws of nature can turn out to be contingent on this view. First of all, I shall distinguish between two versions of law dispositionalism (i.e., a weak and a strong one) and I shall also single out two further theses that may be conjoined with it (i.e., strong and weak dispositional essentialism). I shall then define four different (...)
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  12. added 2019-09-30
    II—Evolved Powers, Artefact Powers, and Dispositional Explanations.Barbara Vetter - 2018 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 92 (1):277-297.
    Alexander Bird puts forward a modest version of anti-Humeanism about the non-fundamental, by providing an argument for the existence of a certain select class of non-fundamental but sparse dispositions: those that have an evolutionary function. I argue that his argument over-generates, so much so that the sparse–abundant distinction, and with it the tenet of his anti-Humean view, becomes obsolete. I suggest an alternative way of understanding anti-Humeanism in the non-fundamental realm, one which is not concerned with the existence of sparse (...)
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  13. added 2019-09-20
    Power and Influence: The Metaphysics of Reductive Explanation.Richard Corry - 2019 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    The world is a complex place, and this complexity is an obstacle to our attempts to explain, predict, and control it. In Power and Influence, Richard Corry investigates the assumptions that are built into the reductive method of explanation—the method whereby we deal with complexity by studying the components of a complex system in relative isolation and use the information so gained to explain or predict the behaviour of the complex whole. He investigates the metaphysical presuppositions built into the reductive (...)
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  14. added 2019-09-17
    Dispositions, Laws, and Categories A Critical Study of E. J. Lowe’s The Four-Category Ontology.Ludger Jansen - 2007 - Metaphysica 8 (2):211-220.
    After a short sketch of Lowe's account of his four basic categories, I discuss his theory of formal ontological relations and how Lowe wants to account for dispositional predications. I argue that on the ontic level Lowe is a pan-categoricalist, while he is a language dualist and an exemplification dualist with regard to the dispositional/categorical distinction. I argue that Lowe does not present an adequate account of disposition. From an Aristotelian point of view, Lowe conflates dispositional predication with 'hôs epi (...)
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  15. added 2019-06-05
    An Essentialist Perspective on the Problem of Induction.Brian Ellis - 1998 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 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 (...)
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  16. added 2019-06-05
    Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement.Tim Maudlin & Nancy Cartwright - 1993 - Journal of Philosophy 90 (11):599.
    This book on the philosophy of science argues for an empiricism, opposed to the tradition of David Hume, in which singular rather than general causal claims are primary; causal laws express facts about singular causes whereas the general causal claims of science are ascriptions of capacities or causal powers, capacities to make things happen. Taking science as measurement, Cartwright argues that capacities are necessary for science and that these can be measured, provided suitable conditions are met. There are case studies (...)
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  17. added 2019-04-22
    Is It Time for a Nietzschean Genealogy of Laws of Nature?: Walter Ott, Lydia Patton : Laws of Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, X+264pp, $65 HB. [REVIEW]Jason Winning - 2019 - Metascience 28 (2):269-271.
  18. added 2019-03-27
    Dispositionalism. Perspectives From Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science.Anne Sophie Meincke - forthcoming - Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
    According to dispositional realism, or dispositionalism, the entities inhabiting our world possess irreducibly dispositional properties – often called ‘powers’ – by means of which they are sources of change. Dispositionalism has become increasingly popular among metaphysicians in the last three decades as it offers a realist account of causation and provides novel avenues for understanding modality, laws of nature, agency, free will and other key concepts in metaphysics. At the same time, it is receiving growing interest among philosophers of science. (...)
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  19. added 2019-03-27
    Potentiality: From Dispositions to Modality, by Barbara Vetter: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, Pp. Xii + 335, £45. [REVIEW]James M. Bucknell - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (1):207-208.
  20. added 2019-01-18
    Essence and the Inference Problem.Ashley Coates - forthcoming - Synthese:1-17.
    Discussions about the nature of essence and about the inference problem for non-Humean theories of nomic modality have largely proceeded independently of each other. In this article I argue that the right conclusions to draw about the inference problem actually depend significantly on how best to understand the nature of essence. In particular, I argue that this conclusion holds for the version of the inference problem developed and defended by Alexander Bird. I argue that Bird’s own argument that this problem (...)
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  21. added 2019-01-15
    Dispositionalism: Between Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science.Anne Sophie Meincke - forthcoming - In Meincke (ed.), Dispositionalism. Perspectives from Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science. Dordrecht, Netherlands:
    According to dispositional realism, or dispositionalism, the entities inhabiting our world possess irreducibly dispositional properties – often called ‘powers’ – by means of which they are sources of change. Dispositionalism has become increasingly popular among metaphysicians in the last three decades as it offers a realist account of causation and provides novel avenues for understanding modality, laws of nature, agency, free will and other key concepts in metaphysics. At the same time, dispositionalism is receiving growing interest among philosophers of science. (...)
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  22. added 2018-12-18
    Introduction.Gregor Damschen - 2009 - In Gregor Damschen, Karsten Stueber & Robert Schnepf (eds.), Debating Dispositions. Issues in Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Mind. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter.
    Introduction to Debating Dispositions. Issues in Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Mind, ed. by Gregor Damschen, Robert Schnepf, and Karsten R. Stueber, Berlin/New York: de Gruyter 2009.
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  23. added 2018-12-03
    Dispositionalism and the Metaphysics of Science.Travis Dumsday - 2019 - Cambridge University Press.
    Dispositionalism is the view that causal powers are among the irreducible properties of nature. It has long been among the core competing positions in the metaphysics of laws, but its potential implications for other key debates within metaphysics and the philosophy of science have remained under-explored. Travis Dumsday fills this major gap in the literature by establishing new connections between dispositionalism and such topics as substance ontology, ontic structural realism, material composition, emergentism, natural-kind essentialism, perdurantism, time travel, and spacetime substantivalism. (...)
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  24. added 2018-12-03
    1. Laws of Nature.Florian Fischer - 2018 - In Natural Laws as Dispositions. De Gruyter. pp. 3-30.
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  25. added 2018-12-03
    5. Dispositional Laws of Nature.Florian Fischer - 2018 - In Natural Laws as Dispositions. De Gruyter. pp. 123-144.
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  26. added 2018-09-14
    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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  27. added 2018-08-06
    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 (...)
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  28. added 2018-07-20
    Emergentism and the Contingent Solubility of Salt.Lok-Chi Chan - 2018 - Theoria 84 (4):309-324.
    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 (...)
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  29. added 2018-06-11
    The Return of Causal Powers?Andreas Hüttemann - forthcoming - In Stathis Psillos, Henrik Lagerlund & Benjamin Hill (eds.), Causal Powers in Science: Blending Historical and Conceptual Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Powers, capacities and dispositions (in what follows I will use these terms synonymously) have become prominent in recent debates in metaphysics, philosophy of science and other areas of philosophy. In this paper I will analyse in some detail a well-known argument from scientific practice to the existence of powers/capacities/dispositions. According to this argument the practice of extrapolating scientific knowledge from one kind of situation to a different kind of situation requires a specific interpretation of laws of nature, namely as attributing (...)
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  30. added 2018-06-01
    Do Categorical Properties Confer Dispositions on Their Bearers?Vassilis Livanios - 2018 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 32 (2):61-82.
    Categorical Monism (that is, the view that all fundamental natural properties are purely categorical) has recently been challenged by a number of philosophers. In this paper, I examine a challenge which can be based on Gabriele Contessa’s [10] defence of the view that only powers can confer dispositions. In his paper Contessa argues against what he calls the Nomic Theory of Disposition Conferral (NTDC). According to NTDC, in each world in which they exist, (categorical) properties confer specific dispositions on their (...)
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  31. added 2018-03-17
    Metaphysics of Laws and Ontology of Time.Cord Friebe - 2018 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 33 (1):77-89.
    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.
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  32. added 2018-02-17
    Ellis on the Limitations of Dispositionalism.Joel Katzav - 2005 - Analysis 65 (1):92-94.
    FIRST PARAGRAPH I have argued that dispositionalism is incompatible with the Principle of Least Action (PLA) (Katzav 2004). In ‘Katzav on the Limitations of Dispositionalism,’ Brian Ellis responds, arguing that while naïve dispositionalism is incompatible with the PLA, sophisticated dispositionalism is not. Naive dispositionalism, according to Ellis, is the view that the world is ultimately something like a conglomerate of objects and their dispositions, and that, therefore, dispositions are the ultimate ontological units that explain events. Sophisticated dispositionalism, according to Ellis, (...)
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  33. added 2017-10-16
    Dis-Positioning Euthyphro.Ben Page - 2018 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 84 (1):31-55.
    The Euthyphro objection is often perceived, rightly or wrongly, as the king objection to theistic meta-ethics. This paper proposes a response that hasn’t been much explored within the contemporary literature, based on the metaphysics of dispositions and natural law theory. The paper will first contend that there is a parallel between ways theists conceptualise God’s role in creating laws of nature and the ways God creates goods. Drawing upon these parallels I propose a possible response to the dilemma, where this (...)
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  34. added 2017-10-16
    The Space of Possibilities of Dispositional Essentialism.Xavi Lanao - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (11):2813-2839.
    How we define the space of possibilities of dispositional essentialism —that is, the set of possible worlds that are genuinely possible from the point of view of DE—has important consequences for central modal debates such as how to understand the concept of essence or the relation between DE and the necessity of laws of nature. In order to define DE’s space of possibilities we need to explore DE’s consequences regarding both necessity and possibility. Unfortunately, the notion of possibility has not (...)
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  35. added 2017-10-16
    Farewell to Laws of Nature?Marc Lange - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (2):361-369.
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  36. added 2017-10-16
    On What Powers Cannot Do.Joel Katzav - 2005 - Dialectica 59 (3):331-345.
    Dispositionalism is the view that the world is, ultimately, just a world of objects and their irreducible dispositions, and that such dispositions are, ultimately, the sole explanatory ground for the occurrence of events. This view is motivated, partly, by arguing that it affords, while non‐necessitarian views of laws of nature do not afford, an adequate account of our intuitions about which regularities are non‐accidental. I, however, argue that dispositionalism cannot adequately account for our intuitions about which regularities are non‐accidental. Further, (...)
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  37. added 2017-10-16
    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.
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  38. added 2017-10-16
    Laws of Nature Outlawed.Stephen Mumford - 1998 - Dialectica 52 (2):83-101.
    SummaryThere are two rival ways in which events in the world can be explained: the covering law way and the dispositionalist way. The covering law model, which takes the law of nature as its fundamental explanatory unit, faces a number of renown difficulties. Rather than attempt to patch up this approach, the alternative dispositionalist strategy is recommended. On this view, general facts are dependent upon particular facts about what things do, rather than vice versa. This way of viewing the world (...)
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  39. added 2017-10-11
    Hamilton’s Principle and Dispositional Essentialism: Friends or Foes?Vassilis Livanios - 2018 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (1):59-71.
    Most recently Smart and Thébault revived an almost forgotten debate between Katzav and Ellis on the compatibility of Hamilton’s Principle with Dispositional Essentialism. Katzav’s arguments inter alia aim to show that HP presupposes a kind of metaphysical contingency which is at odds with the basic tenets of DE, and offers explanations of a different type and direction from those given by DE. In this paper I argue that though dispositional essentialists might adequately respond to these arguments, the question about the (...)
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  40. added 2017-09-11
    A Metaphysics For Scientific Realism: Knowing The Unobservable, By Anjan Chakravartty. [REVIEW]Toby Handfield - 2009 - Mind 118 (472):1118-1121.
    (No abstract is available for this citation).
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  41. added 2017-08-30
    Universals, Laws, and Governance.Matthew Tugby - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1147-1163.
    Proponents of the dispositional theory of properties typically claim that their view is not one that offers a realist, governing conception of laws. My first aim is to show that, contrary to this claim, if one commits to dispositionalism then one does not automatically give up on a robust, realist theory of laws. This is because dispositionalism can readily be developed within a Platonic framework of universals. Second, I argue that there are good reasons for realist dispositionalists to favour a (...)
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  42. added 2017-06-02
    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.
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  43. added 2017-05-26
    Real Dispositions in the Physical World.Ian J. Thompson - 1988 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 39 (1):67-79.
    The role of dispositions in the physical world is considered. It is shown that not only can classical physics be reasonably construed as the discovery of real dispositions, but also quantum physics. This approach moreover allows a realistic understanding of quantum processes.
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  44. added 2017-04-28
    Critical Notice: Laws in Nature.Stathis Psillos - 2006 - Metascience 15:437-69.
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  45. added 2017-04-08
    Science in Metaphysics : Exploring the Metaphysics of Properties and Laws.Livanios Vassilis - 2017 - Palgrave Macmillan.
    This book explores the dispositional and categorical debates on the metaphysics of properties. It defends the view that all fundamental properties and relations are contingently categorical, while also examining alternative accounts of the nature of properties. Drawing upon both established research and the author's own investigation into the broader discipline of the metaphysics of science, this book provides a comprehensive study of the many views and opinions regarding a most debatable topic in contemporary metaphysics.
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  46. added 2017-02-28
    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.
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  47. added 2017-02-28
    Contingent Laws Rule: Reply to Bird.Helen 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.
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  48. added 2017-02-14
    Dispositions Pace Armstrong.Robrecht Vanderbeeken - 2008 - In T. Im de Mey & Markku Keinänen (eds.), Problems From Armstrong. Acta Philosophica Fennica 84. pp. 127--153.
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  49. added 2017-02-14
    DM Armstrong, CB Martin and UT Place, Dispositions: A Debate Reviewed By.Jeremy Fantl - 1997 - Philosophy in Review 17 (2):80-82.
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  50. added 2017-02-03
    Symmetries, Dispositions and Essences.Vassilios Livanios - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 148 (2):295 - 305.
    Dispositional essentialists ultimately appeal to dispositional essences in order to provide (a) an explanation of the conservation of physical quantities and (b) identity conditions for fundamental physical properties. This paper aims to offer alternative suggestions based on symmetry considerations and exhibits their consequences for the thesis of dispositional essentialism.
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