Extended simples are physical objects that, while spatially extended, possess no actual proper parts. The theory that physical reality bottoms out at extended simples is one of the principal competing views concerning the fundamental composition of matter, the others being atomism and the theory of gunk. Among advocates of extended simples, Markosian’s ‘MaxCon’ version of the theory has justly achieved particular prominence. On the assumption of causal realism, I argue here that the reality of MaxCon simples would entail the reality (...) of irreducible, intrinsic dispositional properties. The existence of dispositional properties in turn has important implications for another central debate in metaphysics, namely that between two major competing views concerning the ontology of laws: dispositionalism versus nomological necessitarianism. (shrink)
Primitivism is the view that colors are sui generis properties of physical objects. The basic insight underlying primitivism is that colours are as we see them, i.e. they are categorical properties of physical objects—simple, monadic, constant, etc.—just like shapes. As such, they determine the content of colour experience. Accepting the premise that colours are sui generis properties of physical objects, this paper seeks to show that ascribing primitive properties to objects is, ipso facto, ascribing to objects irreducible dispositions to look (...) coloured, and that anything that primitive redness can do, the non-reductive disposition to look red can do just as well. What makes primitivism suspect is not the commitment to sui generis properties, but instead the claim that colours are more than dispositions. Since, as I show, whatever primitivism appeals to for the purpose of arguing that colours are more than dispositions—objectivity, explanation, causation, phenomenology, constancy, etc.—can also be invoked... (shrink)
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 (...) embedded in some particular, extrinsic causal context. This paper examines a recent argument against dispositionalism that purports to show that the intrinsicality of that relation cannot be maintained, due to the ceteris paribus nature of the counterfactuals that dispositions make-true. When two prominent responses are examined, both are found wanting: at best, they require unjustified special pleading, and at worst, they amount to little more than ad hoc conceptual trickery. (shrink)
Fundamental properties and the laws of nature go hand in hand: mass and gravitation, charge and electromagnetism, spin and quantum mechanics. So, it is unsurprising that one's account of fundamental properties affects one's view of the laws of nature and vice versa. In this essay, I will survey a variety of recent attempts to provide a joint account of the fundamental properties and the laws of nature. Many of these accounts are new and unexplored. Some of them posit surprising entities, (...) such as counterfacts. Other accounts posit surprising laws of nature, such as instantaneous laws that constrain the initial configuration of particles. These exciting developments challenge our assumptions about our basic ontology and provide fertile ground for further exploration. (shrink)
The paper provides a new critical perspective on the propensity interpretation of fitness, by investigating its relationship to the propensity interpretation of probability. Two main conclusions are drawn. First, the claim that fitness is a propensity cannot be understood properly: fitness is not a propensity in the sense prescribed by the propensity interpretation of probability. Second, this interpretation of probability is inessential for explanations proposed by the PIF in evolutionary biology. Consequently, interpreting the probabilistic dimension of fitness in terms of (...) propensities is neither a strong motivation in favor of this interpretation, nor a possible target for substantial criticism. (shrink)
Pan-dispositionalism is one of the major theories in current analytic metaphysics concerning dispositional properties and how they relate to categorical properties. According to pan-dispositionalists, all fundamental properties are dispositional in nature, such that any supposed categorical properties are either unreal or reducible in some way to the dispositional. I argue that if pan-dispositionalism is true then metaphysical naturalism is false. To the extent that one finds pan-dispositionalism a plausible theory, one ought to question the truth of metaphysical naturalism. On the (...) other hand, if one is a committed metaphysical naturalist, one ought to question the truth of pan-dispositionalism. Either way we get a significant result, of interest both to those working in metaphysics and to those working in philosophy of religion. (shrink)
I start by way of clarifying briefly the problem of special divine intervention. Once this is done, I argue that laws of nature are generalizations that derive from the dispositional behaviour of natural kinds. Based on this conception of laws of nature I provide a metaphysical model according to which God can realize acts of special divine providence by way of temporarily changing the dispositions of natural entities. I show that this model does not contradict scientific practice and is consistent (...) with the assumption that the physical realm is causally closed. I then argue that prima facie any putative candidate for an act of God could also be seen as a random event or as indicating that there is something wrong with our formulation of the corresponding law of nature. While there is no sufficient philosophical or scientific reason to prefer one of these models, I argue that there are sufficient and legitimate theological reasons to endorse a framework in which at least the obtaining of some anomic states of affairs is seen as the effect of special divine intervention. Doing so, theology has the hermeneutic resources to uncover a dimension of meaningful reality, which without faith could not be seen. (shrink)
The question I am addressing in this paper is the following: how is it possible to empirically test, or confirm, counterfactuals? After motivating this question in Section 1, I will look at two approaches to counterfactuals, and at how counterfactuals can be empirically tested, or confirmed, if at all, on these accounts in Section 2. I will then digress into the philosophy of probability in Section 3. The reason for this digression is that I want to use the way observable (...) absolute and relative frequencies, two empirical notions, are used to empirically test, or confirm, hypotheses about objective chances, a metaphysical notion, as a role-model. Specifically, I want to use this probabilistic account of the testing of chance hypotheses as a role-model for the account of the testing of counterfactuals, another metaphysical notion, that I will present in Sections 4 to 8. I will conclude by comparing my proposal to one non-probabilistic and one probabilistic alternative in Section 9. (shrink)
The paper aims to elucidate in better detail than before the dispute about whether or not dispositional monism—the view that all basic properties are pure powers—entails a vicious infinite regress. Particular focus is on Alexander Bird's and George Molnar's attempts to show that the arguments professing to demonstrate a vicious regress are inconclusive because they presuppose what they aim to prove, notably that powers are for their nature dependent on something else. I argue that Bird and Molnar are mistaken. It (...) is true that dispositional monism is popularly assumed to characterize powers as dependent entities, but this is not what the arguments aim to prove. They merely aim to demonstrate that it would be absurd to assume that all properties are dependent in this way. Finally, it is argued that there is an unresolved tension in Bird's and Molnar's accounts of powers. They characterize them as being for their nature dependent on the manifestations that they are for, and yet ontologically independent of those same manifestations. Until that tension is resolved, their accounts are not equipped to remove the threat of vicious regress. (shrink)
Currently, two frameworks of causal reasoning compete: Whereas dependency theories focus on dependencies between causes and effects, dispositional theories model causation as an interaction between agents and patients endowed with intrinsic dispositions. One important finding providing a bridge between these two frameworks is that failures of causes to generate their effects tend to be differentially attributed to agents and patients regardless of their location on either the cause or the effect side. To model different types of error attribution, we augmented (...) a causal Bayes net model with separate error sources for causes and effects. In several experiments, we tested this new model using the size of Markov violations as the empirical indicator of differential assumptions about the sources of error. As predicted by the model, the size of Markov violations was influenced by the location of the agents and was moderated by the causal structure and the type of causal variables. (shrink)
There are a number of dispositionalist solutions to the free will problem based on freedom consisting in the agent's exercise of a power. But if a subject a is free when they exercise their power P, there is an objection to be overcome from the possibility of power implantation. A brainwasher, rather than directly manipulating a subject's movements, can instead implant in them a desire, to be understood as a disposition to act, and allow the subject to exercise such a (...) power. It seems that, according to the dispositionalist theory of freedom, such an agent would still count as acting freely. There is a strong non-consent intuition that a is not free in such a case because they did not consent to having the power P—the desire in question. Filling out this intuition is not straightforward. But it can be done in terms of the exercise of P being regulated by higher-order powers of self-reflection. Such regulation is what allows an agent to either take ownership of a power or to reject it. (shrink)
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.
How does God govern the world? For many theists “laws of nature” play a vital role. But what are these laws, metaphysically speaking? I shall argue that laws of nature are not external to the objects they govern, but instead should be thought of as reducible to internal features of properties. Recent work in metaphysics and philosophy of science has revived a dispositionalist conception of nature, according to which nature is not passive, but active and dynamic. Disposition theorists see particulars (...) as being internally powerful rather than being governed by external laws of nature, making external laws in effect ontologically otiose. I will argue that theists should prefer a dispositionalist ontology, since it leads them toward the theory of concurrentism in divine conservation, rather than occasionalism, and revives the distinction between internal and external teleology. God on this view does not govern the world through external laws of nature, but rather through internal aspects of powerful properties. (shrink)
This article considers three views about which properties are genuine. According to the first view, we should look to successful commonsense and scientific explanations in determining which properties are genuine. On this view, predicates that figure in such explanations thereby pick out genuine properties. According to the second view, the only predicates that pick out genuine properties are those that figure in our best scientific explanations. On this view, predicates that figure in commonsense explanations pick out genuine properties only if (...) such explanations are vindicated by the sciences. According to the third view, the only genuine properties are the fundamental, microphysical ones. On this view, although there are “higher-level” predicates that figure in true commonsense and scientific explanations, there are no “higher-level” properties corresponding to such predicates. The article argues that the third view is superior to the others. (shrink)
The thesis that nature is composed of metaphysical levels is commonly understood in terms of emergence. In this paper, I uncover a problem for accounts of emergence, the collapse problem. The collapse problem suggests that emergence merely tracks relations between arbitrary groups of properties and so cannot be used in service of the levels view. I reject several failed attempts to solve the collapse problem and argue for an alternative solution according to which emergence is not a distinction between metaphysical (...) levels, but instead tracks the unavailability of scientific explanations. (shrink)
Dispositionality is a modal notion of a certain sort. When an object is said to have a disposition, we typically understand this to mean that under certain circumstances, the object would behave in a certain way. For instance, a fragile object is disposed to break when dropped onto a concrete surface. It need not actually break - its being fragile has implications that, so to speak, point beyond the actual world. According to dispositionalism, all modal features of the world may (...) be accounted for in terms of its dispositional features. My aim in this paper is to assess the prospects for dispositionalism by examining the most promising theories. Sections 1 and 2 clarify the assumptions and desiderata of a successful dispositionalist theory of modality. Section 3 introduces the principles governing the dispositionalist theories that apparently meet the desiderata. Sections 4 through 6 show that dispositionalism nonetheless faces three problems: while dispositions help account for modal features of the world that are local, diachronic, or gradable, they cannot account for certain modal features of the world that are global, synchronic, or absolute. I end by discussing the costs of preserving dispositionalism. (shrink)
Using meta-metaphysical instruments, the paper analyzes the dispute between ‘reductionist’ Humean categoricalism and ‘bold’ Anti-Humean dispositionalism. It is argued that both views are non-Quinean, hence, heavyweight ontological realisms: careful analysis of specific scientific theories alone is not sufficient. Further, sophisticated philosophical reasoning is needed to defend Anti-Humeanism as well as Humeanism. The paper finally suggests that most if not all ontological disputes are unavoidably “speculative” due to essentialism which cannot be read off contemporary physical theories.
One of the traditional desiderata for a metaphysical theory of laws of nature is that it be able to explain natural regularities. Some philosophers have postulated governing laws to fill this explanatory role. Recently, however, many have attempted to explain natural regularities without appealing to governing laws. Suppose that some fundamental properties are bare dispositions. In virtue of their dispositional nature, these properties must be (or are likely to be) distributed in regular patterns. Thus it would appear that an ontology (...) including bare dispositions can dispense with governing laws of nature. I believe that there is a problem with this line of reasoning. In this essay, I’ll argue that governing laws are indispensable for the explanation of a special sort of natural regularity: those holding among categorical properties (or, as I’ll call them, categorical regularities). This has the potential to be a serious objection to the denial of governing laws, since there may be good reasons to believe that observed regularities are categorical regularities. (shrink)
Since early modernity, it has often been assumed that miracles are incompatible with the existence of the natural laws utilized in the sciences. This paper argues that this assumption is largely an artifact of empiricist accounts of laws that should be rejected for reasons internal to philosophy of science, and that no such incompatibility arises on the most important alternative interpretations, which treat laws as expressions of forces, dispositions, or causal powers.
Philosophers typically rely on intuitions when providing a semantics for counterfactual conditionals. However, intuitions regarding counterfactual conditionals are notoriously shaky. The aim of this paper is to provide a principled account of the semantics of counterfactual conditionals. This principled account is provided by what I dub the Royal Rule, a deterministic analogue of the Principal Principle relating chance and credence. The Royal Rule says that an ideal doxastic agent’s initial grade of disbelief in a proposition \(A\) , given that the (...) counterfactual distance in a given context to the closest \(A\) -worlds equals \(n\) , and no further information that is not admissible in this context, should equal \(n\) . Under the two assumptions that the presuppositions of a given context are admissible in this context, and that the theory of deterministic alethic or metaphysical modality is admissible in any context, it follows that the counterfactual distance distribution in a given context has the structure of a ranking function. The basic conditional logic V is shown to be sound and complete with respect to the resulting rank-theoretic semantics of counterfactuals. (shrink)
The results of sport would not interest us if either they were necessitated or they were a matter of pure chance. And if either case were true, the playing of sport would seem to make no sense either. This poses a dilemma. But there is something between these two options, namely the dispositional modality. Sporting prowess can be understood as a disposition towards victory and sporting liabilities a disposition towards defeat. The sporting contest then pits these net prowesses against each (...) other. The stronger will tend to beat the weaker but no more than tend. This makes sense of the sporting contest in which the weaker knows they still can win. The stronger team can lose though they do not tend to do so. The dilemma is thus escaped. (shrink)
What has the dispositional analysis of properties and laws (e.g. Molnar, Powers, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003; Mumford, Laws in nature, Routledge London, 2004; Bird, Nature’s metaphysics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2007) to offer to the scientific understanding of physical properties?—The article provides an answer to this question for the case of spacetime points and their metrical properties in General Relativity. The analysis shows that metrical properties are not ‘powers’, i.e. they cannot be understood as producing the effects of spacetime on (...) matter with metaphysical necessity. Instead they possess categorical characteristics which, in connection with specific laws, explain those effects. Thus, the properties of spacetime do not favor the metaphysics of powers with respect to properties and laws. (shrink)
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' (...) ranges of manifestation, there are indeed abstracta which play a governing role in the physical universe. After addressing several objections (including the objection that such ‘laws’ lack sufficient independence/externality from the dispositions to count as genuinely governing), I go on to consider some broader implications of this conclusion for other debates in metaphysics and the philosophy of science.1. (shrink)
Marc Lange and Ann Whittle have independently developed an important challenge to dispositionalism, arguing that dispositions are reducible to primitive subjunctive facts. I argue in reply that by pairing dispositionalism with a certain version of natural-kind essentialism, their objection can be overcome. Moreover, such a marriage carries further advantages for the dispositionalist. My aim is therefore two-fold: to defend dispositionalism, and to give the dispositionalist some new motivation to adopt natural-kind essentialism.
A number of authors have suggested that a conditional analysis of dispositions must take roughly the following form: Thing X is disposed to produce response R to stimulus S just in case, if X were exposed to S and surrounding circumstances were auspicious, then X would produce R. The great challenge is cashing out the relevant notion of ‘auspicious circumstances’. I give a general argument which entails that all existing conditional analyses fail, and that there is no satisfactory way to (...) define ‘auspicious circumstances’ just in terms of S, R, and X. Instead, I argue that the auspicious circumstances C for the manifestation of a disposition constitute a third irreducible element of that disposition, and that to pick out (or to ‘individuate’) that disposition one must specify C along with S and R. This enables a new conditional analysis of dispositions that gives intuitively satisfying answers in cases that pose problems for other approaches. (shrink)
Semi-realism offers a metaphysics of science based on causal properties. Insofar as these are understood in terms of dispositions for specific relations that comprise the concrete structure of the world it can be regarded as a form of structural realism. And insofar as these properties are 'sociable' and cohere into the groupings that comprise the particulars investigated by science, it captures the underlying intuition behind forms of entity realism. However, I shall raise concerns about both these features. I shall suggest (...) that dispositionalism is not an appropriate metaphysics for modern physics and that 'sociability' should be understood in terms of the coherence revealed by symmetry principles. I hope to show how we can retain the virtues of semi-realism while dispensing with the problematic elements by recasting it in more thoroughly structuralist terms. (shrink)
The truthmaker literature has recently come to the consensus that the logic of truthmaking is distinct from classical propositional logic. This development has huge implications for the free will literature. Since free will and moral responsibility are primarily ontological concerns (and not semantic concerns) the logic of truthmaking ought to be central to the free will debate. I shall demonstrate that counterexamples to transfer principles employed in the direct argument occur precisely where a plausible logic of truthmaking diverges from classical (...) logic. Further, restricted transfer principles (like the ones employed by McKenna, Stump, and Warfield) are as problematic as the original formulation of the direct argument. (shrink)
Powers are popularly assumed to be distinct from, and dependent upon, inert qualities, mainly because it is believed that qualities have their nature independently of other properties while powers have their nature in virtue of a relation to distinct manifestation property. George Molnar and Alexander Bird, on the other hand, characterize powers as intrinsic and relational. The difficulties of reconciling the characteristics of being intrinsic and at the same time essentially related are illustrated in this paper and it is argued (...) that the reasons for thinking of powers as essentially relational are based on misguided epistemological consideration. Finally, I present a way of thinking of fundamental properties as primitive natures that we can only understand in virtue of what they do but which we should not think of as being ontologically constituted by these doings. According to this view, properties are both qualities and powers. (shrink)
Dispositional essentialists argue that physical properties have their causal roles essentially. This is typically taken to mean that physical properties are identical to dispositions. I argue that this is untenable, and that we must instead say that properties bestow dispositions. I explore what it is for a property to have such a role essentially. Dispositional essentialists argue for their view by citing certain epistemological and metaphysical implications, and I appeal to these implications to place desiderata on the concept of essence (...) involved. I argue that the traditional modal theory of essence meets these desiderata, but that the resulting theory wrongly implies that certain dispositions essential to mass are essential to charge, thereby offering a new argument against modal theories of essence. I argue that dispositional essentialism requires a primitive notion of essence, and develop a primitivist theory based on Kit Fine's views. I show that the primitivist theory has all the virtues of the modal alternative, and none of the vices. I develop a novel way of thinking about the relationship between properties, laws and dispositions, and argue that it has distinct advantages over standard dispositional essentialist formulations. (shrink)
The central theme of this paper is the dispositional/categorical distinction that has been one of the top agendas in contemporary metaphysics. I will first develop from my semantic account of dispositions what I think the correct formulation of the dispositional/categorical distinction in terms of counterfactual conditionals. It will be argued that my formulation does not have the shortcomings that have plagued previously proposed ones. Then I will turn my attention to one of its consequences, the thesis that dispositional properties are (...) not susceptible to intrinsic finks. This thesis was first advanced by me and has ever since stirred up a big controversy, endorsed by some philosophers like Handfield, Bird, and Cohen but rejected by others like Clarke and Fara. Against this background, I will remedy my defense of the impossibility of intrinsically finkable dispositions and then refute some of apparently powerful criticisms of it. And so the upshot is that it is much more reasonable to hold on to the thesis that dispositions are intrinsically unfinkable. This will have the effect of putting the dispositional/categorical distinction on firmer and more secure ground. (shrink)
In this paper, I distinguish two often-conflated theses—the thesis that all dispositions are intrinsic properties and the thesis that the causal bases of all dispositions are intrinsic properties—and argue that the falsity of the former does not entail the falsity of the latter. In particular, I argue that extrinsic dispositions are a counterexample to first thesis but not necessarily to the second thesis, because an extrinsic disposition does not need to include any extrinsic property in its causal basis. I conclude (...) by drawing some general lessons about the nature of dispositions and their relation to their causal bases. (shrink)
Abstract In this paper I offer an anti-Humean interpretation of the causal interactions in somatic medicine. I focus on life-threatening pathological states and show how Nancy Cartwright’s capacities can offer a plausible epistemology for medical processes and the singular causal claims advanced in medical diagnoses. I argue that the capacities manifested in the emergence of symptoms and signs could be tracked down if healthy organisms are construed as nomological machines and suggest that the causal reasoning from current medical practice bears (...) a tacit adherence to anti-Humean assumptions. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-28 DOI 10.1007/s12136-011-0141-1 Authors Stefan Dragulinescu, Drumul Taberei 20, Bucharest, Romania Journal Acta Analytica Online ISSN 1874-6349 Print ISSN 0353-5150. (shrink)
In this paper I offer an anti-Humean critique to Williamson and Russo’s approach to medical mechanisms. I focus on one of the specific claims made by Williamson and Russo, namely the claim that micro-structural ‘mechanisms’ provide evidence for the stability across populations of causal relationships ascertained at the (macro-) level of (test) populations. This claim is grounded in the epistemic account of causality developed by Williamson, an account which—while not relying exclusively on mechanistic evidence for justifying causal judgements—appeals nevertheless to (...) mechanisms, and rejects their anti-Humean interpretation in terms of capacities, powers, potencies, etc. By using (and expanding on) Cartwright’s basic critique against Humean mechanisms, I suggest that, in order to move beyond the level of plausibility, Williamson and Russo’s position is in need of a clarification as to the occurent reading of the components, functioning and interferences of mechanisms. Relatedly, as concerns Williamson’s epistemic account of causation, I argue that this account is in need of a more straightforward answer as to what truth-makers its causal claims should have. (shrink)
The question of whether there could be a physical object that is necessarily constantly active has a long history, and it has recently arisen again in the literature on dispositions. I examine and critique two proposals for affirming the possibility of such an object. I then advocate a third option, one which is workable if paired with natural-kind essentialism. Finally I briefly outline three possible implications of this view for wider debates concerning the ontology of dispositions and natural kinds.
Qualia have proved difficult to integrate into a broadly physicalistic worldview. In this paper, I argue that despite popular wisdom in the philosophy of mind, qualia’s intrinsicality is not sufficient for their non-reducibility. Second, I diagnose why philosophers mistakenly focused on intrinsicality. I then proceed to argue that qualia are categorical and end with some reflections on how the conceptual territory looks when we keep our focus on categoricity.
This article considers the question whether belief ascriptions exhibit context dependence. I first distinguish two potential forms of context dependence in belief ascription. Propositional context dependence concerns what the subject believes, whereas attitudinal context dependence concerns what it is to believe a proposition. I then discuss three potential sources of PCD and two potential sources of ACD. Given the nature of this article, my discussion will provide only an overview of these various forms and sources of context dependence. Along the (...) way I will identify areas where continued research is needed. (shrink)
It has been widely assumed that we do not perceive dispositional properties. I argue that there are two ways of interpreting this assumption. On the first, extensional, interpretation whether we perceive dispositions depends on a complex set of metaphysical commitments. But if we interpret the claim in the second, intensional, way, then we have no reason to suppose that we do not perceive dispositional properties. The two most important and influential arguments to the contrary fail.
What kinds of evidence reliably support predictions of effectiveness for health and social care interventions? There is increasing reliance, not only for health care policy and practice but also for more general social and economic policy deliberation, on evidence that comes from studies whose basic logic is that of JS Mill's method of difference. These include randomized controlled trials, case–control studies, cohort studies, and some uses of causal Bayes nets and counterfactual-licensing models like ones commonly developed in econometrics. The topic (...) of this paper is the 'external validity' of causal conclusions from these kinds of studies. We shall argue two claims. Claim, negative: external validity is the wrong idea; claim, positive: 'capacities' are almost always the right idea, if there is a right idea to be had. If we are right about these claims, it makes big problems for policy decisions. Many advice guides for grading policy predictions give top grades to a proposed policy if it has two good Mill's-method-of difference studies that support it. But if capacities are to serve as the conduit for support from a method-of-difference study to an effectiveness prediction, much more evidence, and much different in kind, is required. We will illustrate the complexities involved with the case of multisystemic therapy, an internationally adopted intervention to try to diminish antisocial behaviour in young people. (shrink)
A disposition mask is something that prevents a disposition from manifesting despite the occurrence of that disposition’s characteristic stimulus, and without eliminating that disposition. Several authors have maintained that masks must be things extrinsic to the objects that have the masked dispositions. Here it is argued that this is not so; masks can be intrinsic to the objects whose dispositions they mask. If that is correct, then a recent attempt to distinguish dispositional properties from so-called categorical properties fails.
In this paper, I distinguish between two varieties of actualism—hardcore actualism and softcore actualism—and I critically discuss Ross Cameron’s recent arguments for preferring a softcore actualist account of the truthmakers for modal truths over hardcore actualist ones. In the process, I offer some arguments for preferring the hardcore actualist account of modal truthmakers over the softcore actualist one.
According to Nozick’s tracking theory of knowledge, an agent a knows that p just in case her belief that p is true and also satisfies the two tracking conditionals that had p been false, she would not have believed that p , and had p been true under slightly different circumstances, she would still have believed that p . In this paper I wish to highlight an interesting but generally ignored feature of this theory: namely that it is reminiscent of (...) a dispositional account of knowledge: it invites us to think of knowledge as a manifestation of a cognitive disposition to form true beliefs. Indeed, given a general account of dispositions in terms of subjunctive conditionals, the two tracking conditionals are satisfied just in case the belief in question results from some cognitive disposition to form true beliefs. Recently, such a conditional account of dispositions has, however, been criticised for its vulnerability to so-called ‘masked’, ‘mimicked’ and ‘finkish’ counterexamples. I show how the classical counterexamples to Nozick’s theory divide smoothly into four corresponding categories of counterexamples from epistemic masking, mimicking and finkishness. This provides strong evidence for the thesis that satisfaction of the two tracking conditionals is symptomatic of knowledge and that knowledge is instead constituted by a dispositional capability to form true beliefs. The attempt to capture such a cognitive, dispositional capability in terms of the tracking conditionals, although providing a good approximation in a wide variety of cases, still comes apart from the real thing whenever the epistemic layout is characterised by masking-, mimicking- and finkish mechanisms. In the last part of the paper I explore the prospect of improving the tracking theory in the light of these findings. (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)
Kripke (Wittgenstein on rules and private language: an elementary exposition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass, 1982 ) rejected a naturalistic dispositional account of meaning (hereafter semantic dispositionalism) in a skeptical argument about rule-following he attributes to Wittgenstein (Philosophical investigation. Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1958 ). Most philosophers who oppose Kripke’s criticisms of semantic dispositionalism take the stance that the argument proves too much: semantic dispositionalism is similar to much of our respected science in some important aspects, and hence to discard the (...) former would mean to give up the latter, which is obviously wrong. In this paper, I shall discuss and reject a recent defense of Kripke by Kusch (Analysis 65(2):156–163 2005 ; Sceptical guide to meaning and rules: defending Kripke’s Wittgenstein. McGill-Queen’s, London, 2006 ). Kusch attempts to show that semantic dispositionalism differs from the sciences, and consequently, Kripke’s attack can only target semantic dispositionalism, but not the sciences. Specifically, Kusch identifies some important features of the sciences with regard to how it employs idealization and ceteris paribus clauses, and argues that the ways in which semantic dispositionalism uses them are dramatically different. I argue that, upon close examination, the two are more similar than otherwise in each of those features. (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)
Semantic networks were developed in cognitive science and artificial intelligence studies as graphical knowledge representation and inference tools emulating human thought processes. Formal analysis of the representation and inference capabilities of the networks modeled them as subsets of standard first-order logic (FOL), restricted in the operations allowed in order to ensure the tractability that seemed to characterize human reasoning capabilities. The graphical network representations were modeled as providing a visual language for the logic. Sub-sets of FOL targeted on knowledge representation (...) came to be called description logics, and research on these logics has focused on issues of tractability of subsets with differing representation capabilities, and on the implementation of practical inference systems achieving the best possible performance. Semantic network research has kept pace with these developments, providing visual languages for knowledge entry, editing, and presenting the results of inference, that translate unambiguously to the underlying description logics. This paper discusses the design issues for such semantic network formalisms, and illustrates them through detailed examples of significant generic knowledge structures analyzed in the literature, including determinables, contrast sets, genus/differentiae, taxonomies, faceted taxonomies, cluster concepts, family resemblances, graded concepts, frames, definitions, rules, rules with exceptions, essence and state assertions, opposites and contraries, relevance, and so on. Such examples provide important test material for any visual language formalism for logic. (shrink)