Half-Baked Humeanism

In William M. R. Simpson, Robert Charles Koons & Nicholas Teh (eds.), Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Contemporary Science. New York: Routledge. pp. 123-145 (2017)
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Toby Handfield has advanced a subtle form of dispositionalism that purports to reconcile the concept of causal powers with broadly Humean convictions by dissolving the requirement for objectively modal relations between powers and their manifestations. He suggests we should identify manifestations with certain types of causal processes, and identify powers with properties that are parts of their structures. The modal features of causal powers can then be explained in terms of internal relations between a power and the property of being a certain type of causal process, but these relations are supervenient and do not add anything to the basic ontology. In this way, causal powers may be ‘connected’ to their manifestations without admitting objectively modal relations. I disagree with this characterisation of causal powers and its identification of manifestations with types of causal processes: I question the assumption that causal processes can be isolated in quantum physics in the way Handfield requires and confront Humean dispositionalism with the problem of individuating powers in an entangled world.



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William Simpson
Cambridge University

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Dispositions.Michael Fara - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Dispositions.Sungho Choi - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Cosmic hylomorphism: A powerist ontology of quantum mechanics.William M. R. Simpson - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (1):1-25.

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