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The semantics and ontology of dispositions

Mind 109 (436):757--780 (2000)

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  1. A Dispositional Theory of Possibility.Andrea Borghini & Neil E. Williams - 2008 - Dialectica 62 (1):21–41.
    – 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. (...)
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  • On Linking Dispositions and Conditionals.David Manley & Ryan Wasserman - 2008 - Mind 117 (465):59-84.
    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.
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  • 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 (...)
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  • Aesthetic Properties.Derek Matravers - 2005 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 79 (1):191-210.
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  • Dispositions.James M. Bucknell - 2015 - Dissertation, Univeristy of New South Wales
    This thesis proposes that key, competing theories of dispositions mistake and conflate how we identify, designate and talk about dispositions and dispositional terms for the nature of dispositions and the meaning of dispositional terms when they argue that: a) dispositions are extrinsic properties of their bearers (Boyle 1666) b) all properties are purely dispositional (Bird 2007) c) all properties are purely categorical (there are no dispositional properties) (Armstrong in AMP 1996) d) dispositional and categorical properties are separate and distinct properties (...)
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  • Potentiality in Biology.Andreas Hüttemann & Marie I. Kaiser - 2018 - In K. Engelhardt & M. Quante (eds.), Handbook of Potentiality. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 401-428.
    We take the potentialities that are studied in the biological sciences (e.g., totipotency) to be an important subtype of biological dispositions. The goal of this paper is twofold: first, we want to provide a detailed understanding of what biological dispositions are. We claim that two features are essential for dispositions in biology: the importance of the manifestation process and the diversity of conditions that need to be satisfied for the disposition to be manifest. Second, we demonstrate that the concept of (...)
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  • The Truthmaking Argument Against Dispositionalism.Christopher J. Austin - 2015 - Ratio 28 (3):271-285.
    According to dispositionalism, de re modality is grounded in the intrinsic natures of dispositional properties. Those properties are able to serve as the ground of de re modal truths, it is said, because they bear a special relation to counterfactual conditionals, one of truthmaking. However, because dispositionalism purports to ground de re modality only on the intrinsic natures of dispositional properties, it had better be the case that they do not play that truthmaking role merely in virtue of their being (...)
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  • 4-D Objects and Disposition Ascriptions.Tobias Hansson Wahlberg - 2009 - Philosophical Papers 38 (1):35-72.
    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.
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  • Quine's Monism and Modal Eliminativism in the Realm of Superveniences.Atilla Akalın - 2019 - International Journal of Social Humanities Sciences Research (JSHRS) 6 (34):795-800.
    This study asserts that W.V.O. Quine’s eliminative philosophical gaze into mereological composition affects inevitably his interpretations of composition theories of ontology. To investigate Quine’s property monism from the account of modal eliminativism, I applied to his solution for the paradoxes of de re modalities’ . Because of its vital role to figure out how dispositions are encountered by Quine, it was significantly noted that the realm of de re modalities doesn’t include contingent and impossible inferences about things. Therefore, for him, (...)
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  • Quantum Selections, Propensities and the Problem of Measurement.Mauricio Suárez - 2004 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (2):219-255.
    This paper expands on, and provides a qualified defence of, Arthur Fine's selective interactions solution to the measurement problem. Fine's approach must be understood against the background of the insolubility proof of the quantum measurement. I first defend the proof as an appropriate formal representation of the quantum measurement problem. The nature of selective interactions, and more generally selections, is then clarified, and three arguments in their favour are offered. First, selections provide the only known solution to the measurement problem (...)
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  • Modal Property Comprehension.Ulrich Meyer - 2013 - Synthese 190 (4):693-707.
    To define new property terms, we combine already familiar ones by means of certain logical operations. Given suitable constraints, these operations may presumably include the resources of first-order logic: truth-functional sentence connectives and quantification over objects. What is far less clear is whether we can also use modal operators for this purpose. This paper clarifies what is involved in this question, and argues in favor of modal property definitions.
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  • How Counterpart Theory Saves Nonreductive Physicalism.Justin Tiehen - 2019 - Mind 128 (509):139-174.
    Nonreductive physicalism faces serious problems regarding causal exclusion, causal heterogeneity, and the nature of realization. In this paper I advance solutions to each of those problems. The proposed solutions all depend crucially on embracing modal counterpart theory. Hence, the paper’s thesis: counterpart theory saves nonreductive physicalism. I take as my inspiration the view that mental tokens are constituted by physical tokens in the same way statues are constituted by lumps of clay. I break from other philosophers who have pursued this (...)
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  • From Phenomenal Selves to Hyperselves.Barry Dainton - 2015 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 76:161-197.
    The claim that we are subjects of experience, i.e. beings whose nature is intimately bound up with consciousness, is in many ways a plausible one. There is, however, more than one way of developing a metaphysical account of the nature of subjects. The view that subjects are essentially conscious has the unfortunate consequence that subjects cannot survive periods of unconsciousness. A more appealing alternative is to hold that subjects are beings with the capacity to be conscious, a capacity which need (...)
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  • A Dispositional Theory of Possibility.Neil E. Williams Andrea Borghini - 2008 - Dialectica 62 (1):21-41.
    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. (...)
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  • Dispositionality: Beyond The Biconditionals.David Manley - 2012 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (2):321 - 334.
    Suppose dispositions bear a distinctive connection to counterfactual facts, perhaps one that could be enshrined in a variation on the well-worn schema "Necessarily, x is disposed to phi in psi iff x would phi in psi. Could we exploit this connection to provide an account of what it is to be a disposition? This paper is about four views of dispositionality that attempt to do so.
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  • Dispositional Properties and Counterfactual Conditionals.Sungho Choi - 2008 - Mind 117 (468):795-841.
    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 (...)
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  • Innate Cognitive Capacities.Muhammad ali KhAlidi - 2007 - Mind and Language 22 (1):92-115.
    This paper attempts to articulate a dispositional account of innateness that applies to cognitive capacities. After criticizing an alternative account of innateness proposed by Cowie (1999) and Samuels (2002), the dispositional account of innateness is explicated and defended against a number of objections. The dispositional account states that an innate cognitive capacity (output) is one that has a tendency to be triggered as a result of impoverished environmental conditions (input). Hence, the challenge is to demonstrate how the input can be (...)
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  • From Being Ontologically Serious to Serious Ontology.Michael Esfeld - 2006 - In John Heil: Symposium on His Ontological Point of View. Ontos. pp. 191--206.
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  • Réduction «Rôle-Occupant», Réduction «Micro-Macro» Et Explication Réductrice a Priori.Max Kistler - 2005 - Dialogue 44 (2):225-248.
    Selon une thése importante, il est en principe possible de déduire de manière a priori la plupart des vérités macroscopiques d’une (hypothétique) description complète du monde en termes microphysiques P, et donc de construire des explications réductrices a priori. Contre cette thèse, je montre que l’explication réductrice requiert des informations sur les phénomènes à réduire qui ne peuvent pas être extraites a priori des seules informations microphysiques. De telles réductions ont deux parties : une «reductionRO» («role-occupant») établit qu’une macropropriété M (...)
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  • Knowledge and the Permissibility of Action.N. Ángel Pinillos - 2019 - Synthese 196 (5):2021-2043.
    I argue in favor of a certain connection between knowledge and the permissibility of action. On this approach, we do not think of the relation between those notions as reflecting a universal epistemic principle. Instead, we think of it as something resembling a platitude from folk psychology. With the help of some elementary tools from the logic of normativity and counterfactuals, I attempt to establish the connection by deriving it from more elementary principles. The new formulation involves a ceteris paribus (...)
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  • Causal Nominalism.Ann Whittle - 2009 - In Toby Handfield (ed.), Dispositions and Causes. Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press ;.
    The causal theory of properties is standardly combined with a realist's ontology of universals or tropes. In this paper, I consider an uncharted alternative – a nominalist causal theory of properties. I discuss advantages and disadvantages of the resulting theory of properties, and explore the Rylean understanding of causal powers that emerges.
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  • Hic Rhodos, Hic Salta: From Reductionist Semantics to a Realist Ontology of Forceful Dispositions.Markus Schrenk - 2009 - In G. Damschen, K. Stueber & R. Schnepf (eds.), Debating Dispositions: Issues in Metaphysics, Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind. De Gruyter. pp. 143-167.
    It is widely believed that at least two developments in the last third of the 20th century have given dispositionalism—the view that powers, capacities, potencies, etc. are irreducible real properties—new credibility: (i) the many counterexamples launched against reductive analyses of dispositional predicates in terms of counterfactual conditionals and (ii) a new anti-Humean faith in necessary connections in nature which, it is said, owes a lot to Kripke’s arguments surrounding metaphysical necessity. I aim to show in this paper that necessity is, (...)
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  • Strong Necessitarianism: The Nomological Identity of Possible Worlds.Alexander Bird - 2004 - Ratio 17 (3):256–276.
    Dispositional essentialism, a plausible view about the natures of (sparse or natural) properties, yields a satisfying explanation of the nature of laws also. The resulting necessitarian conception of laws comes in a weaker version, which allows differences between possible worlds as regards which laws hold in those worlds and a stronger version that does not. The main aim of this paper is to articulate what is involved in accepting the stronger version, most especially the consequence that all possible properties exist (...)
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  • From Possibility to Properties? Or From Properties to Possibility?Sophie R. Allen - 2017 - Philosophy 92 (1):21-49.
    This paper contrasts two metaphysical accounts of modality and properties: Modal Realism which treats possible entities as primitive; and Strong Dispositionalism in which metaphysical possibility and necessity are determined by actually existing dispositions or powers. I argue that Strong Dispositionalism loses its initial advantages of simplicity and parsimony over Modal Realism as it is extended and amended to account for metaphysical rather than just causal necessity. Furthermore, to avoid objections to its material and formal adequacy, Strong Dispositionalism requires a richer (...)
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  • 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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  • Dispositions and Habituals.Michael Fara - 2005 - Noûs 39 (1):43–82.
    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 (...)
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  • Accounting for the Harm of Death.Duncan Purves - 2016 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 97 (1):89-112.
    I defend a theory of the way in which death is a harm to the person who dies that fits into a larger, unified account of harm ; and includes an account of the time of death's harmfulness, one that avoids the implications that death is a timeless harm and that people have levels of welfare at times at which they do not exist.
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  • Derek Matravers.Derek Matravers & Jerrold Levinson - 2005 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 79 (1):191–210.
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  • Kim's Supervenience Argument and Nonreductive Physicalism.Ausonio Marras - 2007 - Erkenntnis 66 (3):305 - 327.
    The aim of this paper is to show that Kim’s ‚supervenience argument’ is at best inconclusive and so fails to provide an adequate challenge to nonreductive physicalism. I shall argue, first, that Kim’s argument rests on assumptions that the nonreductive physicalist is entitled to regard as question-begging; second, that even if those assumptions are granted, it is not clear that irreducible mental causes fail to␣satisfy them; and, third, that since the argument has the overall structure of a reductio, which of (...)
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  • Omissions and Preventions as Cases of Genuine Causation.Ian Hunt - 2005 - Philosophical Papers 34 (2):209-233.
    How should we deal with apparent causation involving events that have not happened when omissions are cited as causes or when something is said to prevent some event? Phil Dowe claims that causal statements about preventions and omissions are ‘quasi-causal' claims about what would have been a cause, if the omitted event had happened or been caused if the prevention had not occurred. However, one important theory of the logic of causal statements – Donald Davidson's – allows us to take (...)
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  • The Individuation of Causal Powers by Events (and Consequences of the Approach).Brandon N. Towl - 2010 - Metaphysica 11 (1):49-61.
    In this paper, I explore the notion of a “causal power”, particularly as it is relevant to a theory of properties whereby properties are individuated by the causal powers they bestow on the objects that instantiate them. I take as my target certain eliminativist positions that argue that certain kinds of properties (or relations) do not exist because they fail to bestow unique causal powers on objects. But the notion of a causal powers is inextricably bound up with our notion (...)
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  • A Simulacrum Account of Dispositional Properties.Marco J. Nathan - 2015 - Noûs 49 (2):253-274.
    This essay presents a model-theoretic account of dispositional properties, 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.
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  • What is a Disposition?Troy Cross - 2005 - Synthese 144 (3):321-41.
    Attempts to capture the distinction between categorical and dispositional states in terms of more primitive modal notions – subjunctive conditionals, causal roles, or combinatorial principles – are bound to fail. Such failure is ensured by a deep symmetry in the ways dispositional and categorical states alike carry modal import. But the categorical/dispositional distinction should not be abandoned; it underpins important metaphysical disputes. Rather, it should be taken as a primitive, after which the doomed attempts at reductive explanation can be transformed (...)
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  • Dispositions Unmasked.Jan Hauska - 2009 - Theoria 75 (4):304-335.
    The problem of masking is widely regarded as a grave threat to the conditional analysis of dispositions. Unlike the difficulty arising in connection with finkish situations, the problem does not involve the (dis)appearance of a disposition upon the arrival of its activating conditions. Consequently, some promising responses to the finkish cases, in particular David Lewis's reformed analysis, are ill-equipped to deal with masks. I contend that the difficulty posed by masks can be surmounted by supplementing the counterfactual at the heart (...)
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  • How (Not) to Think About Idealisation and Ceteris Paribus -Laws.Robert Kowalenko - 2009 - Synthese 167 (1):183-201.
    "Semantic dispositionalism" is the theory that a speaker's meaning something by a given linguistic symbol is determined by her dispositions to use the symbol in a certain way. According to an objection by Kripke, further elaborated in Kusch :156–163, 2005), semantic dispositionalism involves ceteris paribus-clauses and idealisations, such as unbounded memory, that deviate from standard scientific methodology. I argue that Kusch misrepresents both ceteris paribus-laws and idealisation, neither of which factually "approximate" the behaviour of agents or the course of events, (...)
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  • Realism and the Conditional Analysis of Dispositions: Reply to Malzkorn.Stephen Mumford - 2001 - Philosophical Quarterly 51 (204):375-378.
  • The Return of the Embryo.Alan C. Love - 2005 - Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):567-584.
    Review by Alan Love of "Keywords & Concepts in Evolutionary Developmental Biology." Hall, Brian K. and Wendy M. Olson (Eds), Cambridge, Harvard University Press. Hb. 476+xvi pp.
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  • Dispositions and Ontology.Denny Bradshaw - 2003 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 41 (2):169-182.
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  • Dispositions and Subjunctives.Jesse R. Steinberg - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 148 (3):323 - 341.
    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 (...)
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  • Intrinsic Finks, Masks, and Mimics.Anthony Everett - 2009 - Erkenntnis 71 (2):191-203.
    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 (...)
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  • Spurious Causal Kinds: A Problem for the Causal-Power Conception of Kinds.Brandon N. Towl - 2010 - Philosophia 38 (1):217-223.
    There is an assumption common in the philosophy of mind literature that kinds in our sciences—or causal kinds, at least—are individuated by the causal powers that objects have in virtue of the properties they instantiate. While this assumption might not be problematic by itself, some authors take the assumption to mean that falling under a kind and instantiating a property amount to the same thing. I call this assumption the “Property-Kind Individuation Principle”. A problem with this principle arises because there (...)
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