This essay offers a critical review of Steven French's The Structure of the World: Metaphysics & Representation. I challenge some of the reasons that French adduces against ‘thick’ objects as well as his conception of laws—which I think is problematic.
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)
Orthodoxy has it that only metaphysically elite properties can be invoked in scientifically elite laws. We argue that this claim does not fit scientific practice. An examination of candidate scientifically elite laws like Newton’s F = ma reveals properties invoked that are irreversibly defined and thus metaphysically non-elite by the lights of the surrounding theory: Newtonian acceleration is irreversibly defined as the second derivative of position, and Newtonian resultant force is irreversibly defined as the sum of the component forces. We (...) think that scientists are happy to invoke metaphysically non-elite properties in scientifically elite laws for reasons of convenience, such as to simplify the equations and to make them more modular. On this basis, we draw a deflationary moral about laws themselves, as being merely convenient summaries. 1 Introduction2 Orthodoxy2.1 Orthodoxy stated2.2 Orthodoxy explained2.3 A worrisome commitment: Term objectivism3 The Loose View3.1 The argument from practice3.2 Finding the scientifically elite equations3.3 Diagnosing the metaphysically non-elite properties3.4 Situating our challenge4 Newtonian Mechanics4.1 Newtonian acceleration4.2 Newtonian resultant force4.3 A metaphysical discovery?5 Objections5.1 Metaphysically elite after all?5.2 Scientifically non-elite after all?5.3 But our world is not Newtonian!6 Consequences6.1 Consequences for the motivations for link6.2 Consequences for metaphysically elite properties6.3 Consequences for lawhood. (shrink)
The deep differences between E. J. Lowe’s ontology of dispositions and that maintained by other prominent dispositionalists have received relatively little attention in the existing literature on his work. Here I lay out some of these differences, along the way attempting to clarify whether Lowe’s ontology can properly be termed ‘dispositionalist.’ I then argue that the unique features of his ontology allow it to avoid some well-known worries facing standard dispositionalism, while at the same time opening his view to novel (...) objections. My overall aim here is neither to defend nor attack Lowe’s theory, but rather to assess some of its pros and cons and to consider its sometimes surprising implications. (shrink)
The ubiquitous schema ‘All Fs are Gs’ dominates much philosophical discussion on laws but rarely is it shown how actual laws mentioned and used in science are supposed to fit it. After consideration of a variety of laws, including those obviously conditional and those superficially not conditional, I argue that we have good reason to support the traditional interpretation of laws as conditionals of some quantified form with a single object variable. I show how this conclusion impacts on the status (...) of ‘system laws’ and the significance of having only one object variable with regard to the relationship between laws and causal relations. (shrink)
There is a line of reasoning in metaepistemology that is congenial to naturalism and hard to resist, yet ultimately misguided: that knowledge might be a natural kind, and that this would undermine the use of conceptual analysis in the theory of knowledge. In this paper, I first bring out various problems with Hilary Kornblith’s argument from the causal–explanatory indispensability of knowledge to the natural kindhood of knowledge. I then criticize the argument from the natural kindhood of knowledge against the method (...) of conceptual analysis in the theory of knowledge. A natural motivation for this argument is the following seemingly plausible principle: if knowledge is a natural kind, then the concept of knowledge is a natural kind concept. Since this principle lacks adequate support, the crucial semantic claim that the concept of knowledge is a natural kind concept must be defended in some more direct way. However, there are two striking epistemic disanalogies between the concept of knowledge and paradigmatic natural kind concepts that militate against this semantic claim. Conceptual analyses of knowledge are not affected by total error, and the proponents of such analyses are not subject to a priori conceptual obliviousness. I conclude that the argument from natural kindhood does not succeed in undermining the use of conceptual analysis in the theory of knowledge. (shrink)
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 (...) Platonic view. This is because the alternative Aristotelian version of dispositionalism, on which universals are immanent entities, is unstable for various reasons. My final aim is to address a common criticism facing Platonic theories of laws, which is the problem of how external entities can play an explanatory role where the world’s law-like patterns of behaviour are concerned. I argue that the Platonists’ response to the one over many problem can help to shed light on this matter, and a possible solution is sketched, one which makes use of the notions of essence, constitution and ontological dependence. (shrink)
According to the proponents of Developmental Systems Theory and the Causal Parity Thesis, the privileging of the genome as “first among equals” with respect to the development of phenotypic traits is more a reflection of our own heuristic prejudice than of ontology - the underlying causal structures responsible for that specified development no more single out the genome as primary than they do other broadly “environmental” factors. Parting with the methodology of the popular responses to the Thesis, this paper offers (...) a novel criterion for ‘causal primacy’, one that is grounded in the ontology of the unique causal role of dispositional properties. This paper argues that, if the genome is conceptualised as realising dispositional properties that are “directed toward” phenotypic traits, the parity of ‘causal roles’ between genetic and extra-genetic factors is no longer apparent, and further, that the causal primacy of the genome is both plausible and defensible. (shrink)
In his recent book, The Universe As We Find It, John Heil offers an updated account of his two-category ontology. One of his major goals is to avoid including relations in his basic ontology. While there can still be true claims positing relations, such as those of the form “x is taller than y” and “x causes y,” they will be true in virtue of substances and their monadic, non-relational properties. That is, Heil’s two-category ontology is deployed to provide non-relational (...) truthmakers for relational truths. This paper challenges the success of Heil’s project with respect to causation. The arguments here are not entirely negative, however. An option is made available to Heil’s ontology so that it might, at least to some extent, regain non-relational causings. (shrink)
In the first part of the paper I argue that an ontology of events is precise, flexible and general enough so as to cover the three main alternative formulations of quantum mechanics as well as theories advocating an antirealistic view of the wave function. Since these formulations advocate a primitive ontology of entities living in four-dimensional spacetime, they are good candidates to connect that quantum image with the manifest image of the world. However, to the extent that some form of (...) realism about the wave function is also necessary, one needs to endorse also the idea that the wave function refers to some kind of power. In the second part, I discuss some difficulties raised by the recent proposal that in Bohmian mechanics this power is holistically possessed by all the particles in the universe. (shrink)
In this paper I review three different positions on the wave function, namely: nomological realism, dispositionalism, and configuration space realism by regarding as essential their capacity to account for the world of our experience. I conclude that the first two positions are committed to regard the wave function as an abstract entity. The third position will be shown to be a merely speculative attempt to derive a primitive ontology from a reified mathematical space. Without entering any discussion about nominalism, I (...) conclude that an elimination of abstract entities from one’s ontology commits one to instrumentalism about the wave function, a position that therefore is not as unmotivated as it has seemed to be to many philosophers. (shrink)
Is there a fundamental layer of objects in nature? And if so what sorts of things populate it? Among those who answer ‘yes’ to the first question, a common answer to the second is ‘atoms,’ where an atom is understood in the original sense of an object that is spatially unextended, indivisible, and wholly lacking in proper parts. Here I explore some of the ontological consequences of atomism. First, if atoms are real, then whatever motion they appear to undergo must (...) be discrete. The link between atomism and discrete motion goes back at least to Aristotle and is admitted by some atomists, but the full significance of that admission has been neglected. I argue that a commitment to discrete motion in turn entails significant and sometimes counter-intuitive results. I also examine the implications of these results for the philosophy of mind and for discussions of metaphysical naturalism. (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)
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)
Some time ago, Joel Katzav and Brian Ellis debated the compatibility of dispositional essentialism with the principle of least action. Surprisingly, very little has been said on the matter since, even by the most naturalistically inclined metaphysicians. Here, we revisit the Katzav–Ellis arguments of 2004–05. We outline the two problems for the dispositionalist identified Katzav in his 2004 , and claim they are not as problematic for the dispositional essentialist at it first seems – but not for the reasons espoused (...) by Ellis. (shrink)
Debates on the metaphysics of science have steadily gained momentum over the last decade or so. This appears to illustrate a case of philosophers’ realisation that metaphysics—and theoretical philosophy overall—largely depends upon the sciences and has a good deal to learn from them. Recent literature on this, in fact, has reached an unforeseen high level of refinement in the arguments and a very much desirable precision in the consequences that we can derive from examining the interplay currently undergoing between science (...) and metaphysics. The editors of the volume under review have certainly done a great work by compiling some fruitful and novel contributions to our understanding of issues such as the aim and scope of the metaphysics of science, laws of nature, causation, and natural kinds, which are amongst the most heatedly discussed topics in the arena.The structure of the volume is as follows: “What is the metaphysics of science?” ; “Measurements, la .. (shrink)
Three popular views regarding the modal status of the laws of nature are discussed: Humean Supervenience, nomic necessitation, and scientific/dispositional essentialism. These views are examined especially with regard to their take on the apparent modal force of laws and their ability to explain that modal force. It will be suggested that none of the three views, at least in their strongest form, can be maintained if some laws are metaphysically necessary, but others are metaphysically contingent. Some reasons for thinking that (...) such variation in the modal status of laws exists will be presented with reference to physics. This drives us towards a fourth, hybrid view, according to which there are both necessary and contingent laws. The prospects for such a view are studied. (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)
The distribution of moral properties supervenes on the distribution of natural properties, and this provides a puzzle for non-naturalism: what could explain supervenience if moral properties are not natural properties? Enoch claims moral principles explain supervenience. But this solution is incomplete without an account of what moral principles and properties are, and what relation holds between them. This paper begins to develop such an account by exploring analogous issues for Realism about Laws of nature in philosophy of science. Appealing to (...) Mumford’s Central Dilemma for Realism about Laws, I argue that for moral principles to explain supervenience, moral properties must be ontologically dependent on the principles. I suggest that moral properties are relations between moral principles and natural properties. I also explore what it would take to adapt this explanation to a pluralistic theory of morality. Contributory reasons avoid the Cartwright Problem for Laws in a way component forces cannot. (shrink)
According to one popular criterion of property identity, where X and Y are properties, X is identical with Y if and only if X and Y bestow the same conditional powers on their bearers. In this paper, I argue that this causal criterion of property identity is unsatisfactory, because it fails to provide a sufficient condition for the identification of properties. My argument for this claim is based on the observation that the summing of properties does not entail the summing (...) of the conditional powers that they bestow on an object, but, rather, in some cases their subtraction. If so, the following causal structure seems possible: There are two properties, A and B. Each bestows a different set of conditional powers on its bearer, but the conjunctive property A-and-B bestows exactly the same set of conditional powers as either A or B. If this causal structure is possible, then it creates a serious problem for the causal criterion of property identity. (shrink)
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.
Hylomorphism claims that structure is a basic ontological and explanatory principle; it accounts for what things are and what they can do. My goal is to articulate a metaphysic of hylomorphic structure different from those currently on offer. It is based on a substance-attribute ontology that takes properties to be powers and tropes. Hylomorphic structures emerge, on this account, as powers to configure the materials that compose individuals.
Radical non-dispositionalism is the view according to which the actual causal/nomic roles of natural properties are totally irrelevant to their de re modal representation. The major difficulty besetting all forms of radical non-dispositionalism is that the latter allegedly allows the metaphysical possibility of two natural properties swapping their actual causal/nomic roles. The aim of this paper is to provide a plausible solution to that problem. To this end, I describe the necessary steps that a proponent of the view may take (...) to respond to it. I argue that those steps include the rejection of the transworld existence of natural properties and the adoption of a counterpart-theoretic framework for their de re modal representation. I, finally, present two versions of the property-counterpart framework which are consistent with the radical non-dispositionalism. (shrink)
Navigating the ontology of color used to be a simple affair. There was the naive view that colors really are in objects the way they appear, and the view that they are secondary qualities to cause certain experiences in us. Today, there are myriad well-developed views but no satisfactory taxonomy of philosophical theories on color. In this article, I first examine the two newest taxonomies on offer and argue that they are inadequate. In particular, I look at Brogaard’s taxonomy and (...) then Cohen’s. One of the reasons I am displeased with Brogaard and Cohen’s taxonomies is that I find it implausible that dispositions are relational properties. I provide an argument against this way of classifying dispositions. Having learned from the vices and virtues of Brogaard and Cohens’ taxonomies, I provide what I believe is a much-enhanced way of taxonomizing philosophical views on color. My taxonomy rules out certain views, clarifies others, and shows that there is an unnoticed view worthy of consideration. (shrink)
Notoriously, the dispositional view of natural properties is thought to face a number of regress problems, one of which points to an epistemological worry. In this paper, I argue that the rival categorical view is also susceptible to the same kind of regress problem. This problem can be overcome, most plausibly, with the development of a structuralist epistemology. After identifying problems faced by alternative solutions, I sketch the main features of this structuralist epistemological approach, referring to graph-theoretic modelling in the (...) process. Given that both the categoricalists and dispositionalists are under pressure to adopt this same epistemological approach in light of the regress problem, this suggests that the categoricalist versus dispositionalist debate is best fought on metaphysical rather than epistemological grounds. (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.
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)
In this paper, we examine what is to be said in defence of Machamer, Darden and Craver’s (MDC) controversial dualism about activities and entities (Machamer, Darden and Craver’s in Philos Sci 67:1–25, 2000). We explain why we believe the notion of an activity to be a novel, valuable one, and set about clearing away some initial objections that can lead to its being brushed aside unexamined. We argue that substantive debate about ontology can only be effective when desiderata for an (...) ontology are explicitly articulated. We distinguish three such desiderata. The first is a more permissive descriptive ontology of science, the second a more reductive ontology prioritising understanding, and the third a more reductive ontology prioritising minimalism. We compare MDC’s entities-activities ontology to its closest rival, the entities-capacities ontology, and argue that the entities-activities ontology does better on all three desiderata. (shrink)
On a naive reading of the major accounts of love, love is a kind of mental event. A recent trend in the philosophical literature on love is to reject these accounts on the basis that they do not do justice to the historical dimension of love, as love essentially involves a distinctive kind of temporally extended pattern. Although the historicist account has advantages over the positions that it opposes, its appeal to the notion of a pattern is problematic. I will (...) argue that an account of love as disposition, suitably construed, is superior to the historicist account in that it has the advantages the historicist account has without its problems. In addition, the dispositional account has advantages of its own. (shrink)
I address a question in moral metaphysics: How are conflicts between moral obligations possible? I begin by explaining why we cannot give a satisfactory answer to this question simply by positing that such conflicts are conflicts between rules, principles, or reasons. I then develop and defend the “Dispositional Account,” which posits that conflicts between moral obligations are conflicts between the manifestations of obligating dispositions (obligating powers, capacities, etc.), just as conflicts between physical forces are conflicts between the manifestations of (certain) (...) causal dispositions (causal powers, capacities, etc.). This account combines the so-called “moral forces” interpretation of prima facie obligations with a dispositional moral metaphysic according to which the metaphysical grounds of moral obligations are not rules or laws, but rather real, irreducibly dispositional properties (or powers) of moral agents and patients. My principal aims are to offer a theoretically attractive and suitably metaphysical account of conflicts of obligation, and to show that the dispositional moral metaphysic that grounds the Dispositional Account can explain and accommodate plausible normative views that rule- and law-based alternatives cannot, as well as to answer objections that have been pressed against other accounts of moral conflict (especially Ross’s) that appeal to moral dispositions or forces. (shrink)
Many necessitarians about cause and law (Armstrong 1983; Mumford 2004; Bird 2007) have argued that Humeans are unable to justify their inductive inferences, as Humean laws are nothing but the sum of their instances. In this paper I argue against these necessitarian claims. I show that Armstrong is committed to the explanatory value of Humean laws (in the form of universally quantified statements), and that contra Armstrong, brute regularities often do have genuine explanatory value. I finish with a Humean attempt (...) at a probabilistic justification of induction, but this fails due to its assumption that the proportionality syllogism is justified. Although this attempt fails, I nonetheless show that the Humean is at least as justified in reasoning inductively as Armstrong. (shrink)
The focus of this article is the view about fundamental natural properties known as dispositional monism. This is a holistic view about nature, according to which all properties are essentially interrelated. The general question to be addressed concerns what kinds of features relational structures of properties should be thought to have. I use Bird's graph-theoretic framework for representing dispositional structures as a starting point, before arguing that it is inadequate in certain important respects. I then propose a more parsimonious graph-theoretic (...) system, which, among other things, overhauls Bird's distinction between stimulus and manifestation relations. (shrink)
After identifying some existing explanations offered by nomic necessitarians for the alleged necessary connections between natural properties and their dispositional or nomic features, I discuss a less explored necessitarian strategy. This strategy is available to Platonists who hold that properties exist necessarily, as most do.
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)
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)
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.
Sydney Shoemaker’s causal theory of properties is an important starting place for some contemporary metaphysical perspectives concerning the nature of properties. In this paper, I discuss the causal and intrinsic criteria that Shoemaker stipulates for the identity of genuine properties and relations, and address George Molnar’s criticism that holding both criteria presents an unbridgeable hypothesis in the causal theory of properties. The causal criterion requires that properties and relations contribute to the causal powers of objects if they are to be (...) deemed genuine rather than ‘mere-Cambridge’. The intrinsic criterion requires that all genuine properties and relations be intrinsic. Molnar’s S-property argument says that these criteria conflict if one considers extrinsic spatiotemporal properties and relations to contribute causally. In this paper, I argue that a solution to the contradiction that Molnar identifies involves a denial of discreteness between objects, leading to a power holist perspective and a resulting deflationary account of intrinsicality. (shrink)
After defending the ontologically genuine existence of at least some of the actual nomic relations, I discuss some issues concerning their metaphysical features. I firstly argue in favour of the metaphysical contingency of nomic relations and then I suggest that their relata-specificity is the most plausible metaphysical view that guarantees the unity of facts that the laws of nature are. Finally, I present a novel account according to which some of the actual nomic relations are neither external nor external but (...) contingently possess a kind of hybrid character. (shrink)
In this paper, I will reconstruct Hume's argument for the ontological (in the sense of rigid existential) independence of simple properties in A Treatise of Human Nature , Book 1 (1739). According to my reconstruction, the main premises of the argument are the real distinctness of every perception of a simple property, Hume's Separability Principle and his Conceivability Principle. In my view, Hume grounds the real distinctness of every perception of a simple property in his atomistic theory of sense perception (...) and his Copy Principle. I will also show why Hume's argument should be seen as relevant nowadays. David Lewis and his followers in metaphysics continue Hume's line of thinking in this respect, which is opposed by power ontologists (Brian Ellis, Stephen Mumford), for example. (shrink)
Arguments from explanation, i.e. arguments in which the explanatory value of a hypothesis or premise is appealed to, are common in science, and explanatory considerations are becoming more popular in metaphysics. The paper begins by arguing that explanatory arguments in scienceâ€”even when these are metaphysical explanationsâ€” may fail to be explanatory in metaphysics; there is a distinction to be drawn between metaphysical explanation and explanation in metaphysics. This makes it potentially problematic to deploy arguments from explanation in, for instance, metaphysics (...) of science. Part of this problem has its source in that the explanatory concept differs between contexts. The paper discusses a few explanatory concepts and their corresponding arguments from explanation. Towards the end of the paper, I identify two allegedly explanatory arguments in metaphysical discourse by the concluding decisions they give rise to: the rejection of X as a metaphysical fact if X does not explain anything (the argument from explanatory inability) and the rejection of X as a metaphysical fact if X can be non-metaphysically explained (the argument from the non-metaphysically explained). I ask: What kind of concept of explanation do these arguments rely upon, and is that concept suited to the metaphysical task? Two recent examples of these arguments are used as illustration. The preliminary conclusion is that several of the strengths of arguments from explanation in science seem not to be present in metaphysical contexts. (shrink)
What are moral principles? In particular, what are moral principles of the sort that (if they exist) ground moral obligations or—at the very least—particular moral truths? I argue that we can fruitfully conceive of such principles as real, irreducibly dispositional properties of individual persons (agents and patients) that are responsible for and thereby explain the moral properties of (e.g.) agents and actions. Such moral dispositions (or moral powers) are apt to be the metaphysical grounds of moral obligations and of particular (...) truths about what is morally permissible, impermissible, etc. Moreover, they can do other things that moral principles are supposed to do: explain the phenomena “falling within their scope,” support counterfactuals, and ground moral necessities, “necessary connections” between obligating reasons and obligations. And they are apt to be the truthmakers for moral laws, or “lawlike” moral generalizations. (shrink)
It is often remarked that Indian logic (IL) has no conception of necessity. But what kind of necessity is absent in this system? Logical necessity is presumably absent: the structure of the logical argument in IL is often given as a reason for this claim. However even a cursory understanding of IL illustrates an abiding attempt to formulate the idea of necessity. In Dharmakīrti's classification of inferences, one can detect the formal process of entailment in the inferences arising from class (...) inclusion. In Western philosophy, Leibniz's invocation of 'contingent necessity' as distinguished from the 'necessary necessity' is part of a tradition that finds value in the idea of contingent necessity. In contemporary philosophy, this has been championed by Armstrong, specifically in the context of understanding the necessity inherent in scientific laws. In IL, the analysis of 'invariable concomitance' (vyāpti) is of crucial importance and its definitions are very complex. This paper argues how vyāpti can be understood in terms of contingent necessity and also how the complex definitions can be interpreted as an attempt to define contingent necessity in terms of 'logical' necessity. (shrink)
In this paper, I focus on life-threatening medical conditions and argue that from the point of view of natural properties, induction(s), and participation in laws, at least some of the ill organisms dealt with in somatic medicine form natural kinds in the same sense in which the kinds in the exact sciences are thought of as natural. By way of comparing two ‘divisions of nature’, viz., a ‘classical’ exact science kind (gold) and a kind of disease (Graves disease), I show (...) that there is no justifiable ‘ontological gap’ between disease kinds and exact sciences kinds. We have instead a difference of degree. (shrink)
Possible worlds, concrete or abstract as you like, are irrelevant to the truthmakers for modality—or so I shall argue in this paper. First, I present the neo-Humean picture of modality, and explain why those who accept it deny a common sense view of modality. Second, I present what I take to be the most pressing objection to the neo-Humean account, one that, I argue, applies equally well to any theory that grounds modality in possible worlds. Third, I present an alternative, (...) properties-based theory of modality and explore several specific ways to flesh the general proposal out, including my favored version, the powers theory. And, fourth, I offer a powers semantics for counterfactuals that each version of the properties-based theory of modality can accept, mutatis mutandis. Together with a definition of possibility and necessity in terms of counterfactuals, the powers semantics of counterfactuals generates a semantics for modality that appeals to causal powers and not possible worlds. (shrink)