Dispositions

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2008)
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Abstract

The glass vase on my desk is fragile. It should be handled with care because it it is likely to shatter or crack if it is knocked, dropped, or otherwise treated roughly. The vase has certain dispositions, for example the disposition to shatter when dropped. But what is this disposition? It seems on the one hand to be a perfectly real property, a genuine respect of similarity common to glass vases, china cups, ancient manuscripts, and anything else fragile. Yet on the other hand my vase's disposition seems mysterious, "ethereal" (as Nelson Goodman (1954) put it) in a way that, say, its size and shape properties are not. For my vase's disposition, it seems, has to do only with its possibly shattering in certain conditions, conditions which I hope will never be realized. In general, it seems that nothing about the actual behavior of an object is ever necessary for it to have the dispositions it has. Many objects differ from each other with respect to their dispositions in virtue of their merely possible behavior, and this is a mysterious way for objects to differ

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Citations of this work

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Intuition.Ole Koksvik - 2011 - Dissertation, Australian National University
Can mechanisms really replace laws of nature?Bert Leuridan - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (3):317-340.

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References found in this work

What is a Law of Nature?D. M. Armstrong - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Sydney Shoemaker.
The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science.Nancy Cartwright - 1999 - New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Scientific Essentialism.Brian Ellis - 2001 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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