Disposition‐manifestations and Reference‐frames

Dialectica 63 (4):591-601 (2009)
Authors
Alastair Wilson
University of Birmingham
Abstract
Dispositions can combine as vector sums. Recent authors on dispositions, such as George Molnar and Stephen Mumford, have responded to this feature of dispositions by introducing a distinction between effects and contributions to effects, and by identifying disposition‐manifestations with the latter. But some have been sceptical of the reality or knowability of component vectors; Jennifer McKitrick presses these concerns against the conception of manifestations as contributions to effects. In this paper, I aim to respond to McKitrick's arguments and to defend the metaphysical and epistemological propriety of component vectors. My strategy appeals to varying kinematic frames of reference. By transforming to the appropriate non‐inertial frame, component acceleration vectors can be transformed into resultant acceleration vectors, and in such frames they become directly observable. Being a component acceleration vector and being a resultant acceleration vector are both frame‐dependent properties of properties; they are not to be thought of as intrinsic or fundamental properties of an acceleration vector, but as artefacts of our frame‐dependent notation for representing vector quantities. To conclude the paper, I defend the view proposed against two styles of objection. The first objection resurrects scepticism about component vectors as scepticism about fundamental component vectors. The second objection questions the need for reference frames in the explanation by invoking a ‘counterfactual’ theory of contributions.
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DOI 10.1111/dltc.2009.63.issue-4
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