The Explanatory Import of Dispositions: A Defense of Scientific Realism

It is widely assumed that disposition predicates do not designate entities which could be causal factors in the production of natural phenomena. Yet, the fact that an object has a given dispositional property is often taken to help explain behavior exhibited by objects to which the disposition is ascribed. Instrumentalist, realist, and rationalist analyses of disposition predicates embody three quite distinct views of how both assumptions could be correct. It is argued that the instrumentalist fails to capture basic intuitions concerning the explanatory import of disposition ascriptions, the rationalist tries unsuccessfully to locate necessary connections in nature, and the realist provides an account which is intuitively satisfying without introducing otiose entities into the ontology of empirical science.
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