Dispositions defined: Harré and Madden on analyzing disposition concepts

Philosophy of Science 52 (4):591-607 (1985)
If one proposes to analyze dispositions by means of statements involving only the 'if-then' of material implication--that is, for example, to define 'x is soluble' by means of 'x is in water ⊃ x dissolves'--then one faces the problem first raised by Carnap, the match which is never put in water and which therefore turns out to be not only soluble but also both soluble and insoluble. I have elsewhere argued that if one refers to appropriate laws, then one can provide an account of disposition predication that solves Carnap's problem while requiring no sense of 'if-then' other than that of material implication. Harre and Madden have argued that a variant of this proposal--one in which the relevant law is restricted to one that relates the disposition to internal structures--is more adequate. It is argued that the proposal of Harre and Madden is in fact not adequate. It leads to an implausible infinite regress of dispositions and ever finer internal structures, which Harre and Madden avoid only by introducing "Parmenidean individuals." The examples they give turn out to involve dispositions not grounded in internal structures, and so support our analysis; while the explicit description of such individuals by Harre and Madden involves the incoherent idea that two individuals can share all categorical properties while differing in their dispositions. The position of Harre and Madden thus turns out to be equivalent to ours or to be incoherent.
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DOI 10.1086/289277
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