Inverse Functionalism and the Individuation of Powers

Synthese:1-26 (2017)
Authors
David Yates
Universidade de Lisboa
Abstract
In the pure powers ontology (PPO), basic physical properties have wholly dispositional essences. PPO has clear advantages over categoricalist ontologies, which suffer from familiar epistemological and metaphysical problems. However, opponents argue that because it contains no qualitative properties, PPO lacks the resources to individuate powers, and generates a regress. The challenge for those who take such arguments seriously is to introduce qualitative properties without reintroducing the problems that PPO was meant to solve. In this paper, I distinguish the core claim of PPO: (i) basic physical properties have dispositional essences, from a hitherto unnoticed assumption: (ii) the dispositional essences of basic physical properties exclusively involve type-causal relations to other basic physical properties. I reject (ii), making room for a structuralist ontology in which all basic physical properties are pure powers, individuated by their places in a causal structure that includes not only other powers, but also physically realized qualitative properties such as shapes, patterns and structures. Such qualities individuate pure powers in the way that non-mental input and output properties individuate realized mental properties in functionalist theories of mind, except that here it is basic physical powers that are individuated by relations to realized non-powers. I distinguish one Platonic and two Aristotelian version of this theory, and argue that the Aristotelian versions require that grounding is not always a relative fundamentality relation, because the powers ground the qualities that individuate them. I argue that symmetric grounding is the best way to make sense of the relational individuation common to all structuralist ontologies, and is therefore no additional commitment of the one proposed here.
Keywords Powers  Structuralism  Regress of pure powers  Grounding  Fundamentality  Ontic Structural Realism  Realization  Symmetric Grounding  Individuation  Powerful Qualities
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-017-1417-9
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