Many years ago, C.B. Martin drew our attention to the possibility of ‘finkish’ dispositions: dispositions which, if put to the test would not be manifested, but rather would disappear. Thus if x if finkishly disposed to give response r to stimulus s, it is not so that if x were subjected to stimulus r, x would give response z; so finkish dispositions afford a counter‐example to the simplest conditional analysis of dispositions. Martin went on to suggest (...) that finkish dispositions required a theory of primitive causal powers; there, I think, he was mistaken. All that they require is an improved conditional analysis, and this improved analysis can be built upon whatever treatments of properties and of laws we may favour on other grounds. (shrink)
It is widely believed that at least two developments in the last third of the 20th century have given dispositionalism—the view that powers, capacities, potencies, etc. are irreducible real properties—new credibility: (i) the many counterexamples launched against reductive analyses of dispositional predicates in terms of counterfactual conditionals and (ii) a new anti-Humean faith in necessary connections in nature which, it is said, owes a lot to Kripke’s arguments surrounding metaphysical necessity. I aim to show in this paper that necessity is, (...) in fact, of little help for the dispositionalists. My argument makes use of one of the above mentioned counterexamples against Humean reduction: antidotes. Turning the tables, I ask how the dispositionalists themselves can deal with antidotes. The result will be to show that if the dispositionalists are to demystify antidote cases, they must make plausible a conceptualisation of dispositions that does not invoke any kind of necessity. I will cautiously suggest that the anti-Humean link dispositions bring to the world has to be thought of in terms of (Newtonian) forces. (shrink)
Dispositional Realism is the view according to which some denizens of reality – i.e., dispositions – are properties, that may exist in the natural world and have an irreducible modal character. Among Dispositional Realists, Charlie Martin, Ullin Place and George Molnar most notably argued that the modal character of dispositions should be understood in terms of their intentionality. Other Dispositional Realists, most notably Stephen Mumford, challenged this understanding of the modal character of dispositions. In this paper, I (...) defend a fresh version of the intentional understanding of dispositions. I start by distinguishing two questions about properties, respectively addressing their identity conditions and their individuation conditions. I, then, define categorical and dispositional properties in terms of their qualitative character, and examine their identity and individuation conditions. I conclude that the attribution of intentions is a conceptual tool: it was introduced in order to help specifying the conditions of individuation of a disposition; however, such attribution does not affect the identity of a disposition. (shrink)
Many philosophers think that dispositions are necessarily intrinsic. However, there are no good positive arguments for this view. Furthermore, many properties (such as weight, visibility, and vulnerability) are dispositional but are not necessarily shared by perfect duplicates. So, some dispositions are extrinsic. I consider three main objections to the possibility of extrinsic dispositions: the Objection from Relationally Specified Properties, the Objection from Underlying Intrinsic Properties, and the Objection from Natural Properties. These objections ultimately fail.
We reply to recent papers by John Turri and Ben Bronner, who criticise the dispositionalised Nozickian tracking account we discuss in “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know.” We argue that the account we suggested can handle the problems raised by Turri and Bronner. In the course of responding to Turri and Bronner’s objections, we draw three general lessons for theories of epistemic dispositions: that epistemic dispositions are to some extent extrinsic, that epistemic dispositions can have manifestation conditions (...) concerning circumstances where their bearers fail to exist, and that contrast is relevant to disposition attributions. (shrink)
This paper develops two ideas with respect to dispositional properties: (1) Adapting a suggestion of Sungho Choi, it appears the conceptual distinction between dispositional and categorical properties can be drawn in terms of susceptibility to finks and antidotes. Dispositional, but not categorical properties, are not susceptible to intrinsic finks, nor are they remediable by intrinsic antidotes. (2) If correct, this suggests the possibility that some dispositions—those which lack any causal basis—may be insusceptible to any fink or antidote. Since finks (...) and antidotes are a major obstacle to a conditional analysis of dispositions, these dispositions that are unfinkable may be successfully analysed by the conditional analysis of dispositions. This result is of importance for those who think that the fundamental properties might be dispositions which lack any distinct causal basis, because it suggests that these properties, if they exist, can be analysed by simple conditionals and that they will not be subject to ceteris paribus laws. (shrink)
This paper discusses the prospects of a dispositional solution to the Kripke–Wittgenstein rule-following puzzle. Recent attempts to employ dispositional approaches to this puzzle have appealed to the ideas of finks and antidotes—interfering dispositions and conditions—to explain why the rule-following disposition is not always manifested. We argue that this approach fails: agents cannot be supposed to have straightforward dispositions to follow a rule which are in some fashion masked by other, contrary dispositions of the agent, because in all (...) cases, at least some of the interfering dispositions are both relatively permanent and intrinsic to the agent. The presence of these intrinsic and relatively permanent states renders the ascription of a rule-following disposition to the agent false. (shrink)
This paper addresses the question what the fundamental nature and mode of being of institutional reality is. Besides the recent debate with Tony Lawson, Barry Smith is also one of the relatively few authors to have explicitly challenged John Searle's social ontology on this metaphysical question, with Smith's realism requirement for institutions conflicting with Searle's requirement of a one-world naturalism. This paper proposes that an account of institutions as powers or dispositions is not only congenial to Searle's general account, (...) but can also satisfy both the realism and the one world requirements. Searle's worry that such a dispositional account is unable to account for the deontic nature of institutions is countered by an appeal to higher-order powers as well as Searle's notion of the gap and desire-independent reasons for action. (shrink)
One of the traditional desiderata for a metaphysical theory of laws of nature is that it be able to explain natural regularities. Some philosophers have postulated governing laws to fill this explanatory role. Recently, however, many have attempted to explain natural regularities without appealing to governing laws. Suppose that some fundamental properties are bare dispositions. In virtue of their dispositional nature, these properties must be (or are likely to be) distributed in regular patterns. Thus it would appear that an (...) ontology including bare dispositions can dispense with governing laws of nature. I believe that there is a problem with this line of reasoning. In this essay, I’ll argue that governing laws are indispensable for the explanation of a special sort of natural regularity: those holding among categorical properties (or, as I’ll call them, categorical regularities). This has the potential to be a serious objection to the denial of governing laws, since there may be good reasons to believe that observed regularities are categorical regularities. (shrink)
Even though theistic philosophers and scientists agree that God created, sustains, and providentially governs the physical universe and even though much has been published in general regarding divine action, what is needed is a fine-grained, conceptually coherent account of divine action, causation, dispositions, and laws of nature consistent with divine aseity, satisfying the widely recognized adequacy conditions for any account of dispositions.1 Such an account would be a basic part of a more comprehensive theory of divine action in (...) relation to the fundamental concepts of science and of mathematics. Our aim in this article is simply to present such a theory. (shrink)
I maintain that some outcomes, for the most part due to David Lewis, of the contemporary debate on the metaphysics of dispositions can be used to show that the dispositions with which ideal-condition dispositional analyses identify the state of meaning addition by “+” do not exist. And since, of course, sometimes speakers do mean addition by “+”, this entails that ideal-condition dispositional analyses of meaning cannot work.
This is a perfect overview article that serves as a general introduction to the topic of dispositions. It is composed of six sections that review the main philosophical approaches to the most important questions: Analysis of disposition ascription, the dispositional/categorical distinction, dispositions and categorical bases, the intrinsicness of dispositions and the causal efficacy of dispositions.
According to power theorists, properties are powers—i.e. they necessarily confer on their bearers certain dispositions. Although the power theory is increasingly gaining popularity, a vast majority of analytic metaphysicians still favors what I call ‘the nomic theory’—i.e. the view according to which what dispositions a property confers on its bearers is contingent on what the laws of nature happen to be. This paper argues that the nomic theory is inconsistent, for, if it were correct, then properties would not (...) confer any dispositions on their bearers—they would only appear to do so (just like how, in cases of mimicking, objects do not really have the relevant dispositions, they merely appear to have them). If my arguments are sound, then the nomic theory is incoherent and ultimately collapses into what I call ‘neo-occasionalism’ and powers turns out to be the only available option for those who believe that properties genuinely confer dispositions on their bearers. (shrink)
This paper argues for a broadly dispositionalist approach to the ontology of Bohmian mechanics . It first distinguishes the ‘minimal’ and the ‘causal’ versions of Bohm’s theory, and then briefly reviews some of the claims advanced on behalf of the ‘causal’ version by its proponents. A number of ontological or interpretive accounts of the wave function in BM are then addressed in detail, including configuration space, multi-field, nomological, and dispositional approaches. The main objection to each account is reviewed, namely the (...) ‘problem of perception’, the ‘problem of communication’, the ‘problem of temporal laws’, and the ‘problem of under-determination’. It is then shown that a version of dispositionalism overcomes the under-determination problem while providing neat solutions to the other three problems. A pragmatic argument is thus furnished for the use of dispositions in the interpretation of the theory more generally. The paper ends in a more speculative note by suggesting ways in which a dispositionalist interpretation of the wave function is in addition able to shed light upon some of the claims of the proponents of the causal version of BM. (shrink)
In an earlier paper in these pages (2008), we explored the puzzling link between dispositions and conditionals. First, we rehearsed the standard counterexamples to the simple conditional analysis and the refined conditional analysis defended by David Lewis. Second, we attacked a tempting response to these counterexamples: what we called the ‘getting specific strategy’. Third, we presented a series of structural considerations that pose problems for many attempts to understand the link between dispositions and conditionals. Finally, we developed our (...) own account of this link, which avoids all of the standard counterexamples and comports with the relevant structural considerations. In this paper, we reply to some objections. (shrink)
From virtue ethics and interactionist perspectives, we hypothesized that personal justice norms (distributive and procedural justice norms) were shaped directly and multiplicatively by ethical dispositions (equity sensitivity and need for structure) and ethical climates (egoistic, benevolent, and principle climates). We collected multisource data from 123 companies in Hong Kong, with personal factors assessed by participants’ self-reports and contextual factors by aggregations of their peers. In general, LISREL analyses with latent product variables supported the direct and multiplicative relationships. Our findings (...) could lay the groundwork for justice research from a morality perspective in future. (shrink)
The conditional analysis of dispositions is widely rejected, mainly due to counterexamples in which dispositions are either “finkish” or “masked.” David Lewis proposed a reformed conditional analysis. This view avoids the problem of finkish dispositions, but it fails to solve the problem of masking. I will propose a reformulation of Lewis’ analysis, and I will argue that this reformulation can easily be modified so that it avoids the problem of masking. In the final section, I will address (...) the challenge that some dispositions appear to lack any stimulus condition, and I will briefly turn to the issue of reductionism. (shrink)
A number of authors have suggested that a conditional analysis of dispositions must take roughly the following form: Thing X is disposed to produce response R to stimulus S just in case, if X were exposed to S and surrounding circumstances were auspicious, then X would produce R. The great challenge is cashing out the relevant notion of ‘auspicious circumstances’. I give a general argument which entails that all existing conditional analyses fail, and that there is no satisfactory way (...) to define ‘auspicious circumstances’ just in terms of S, R, and X. Instead, I argue that the auspicious circumstances C for the manifestation of a disposition constitute a third irreducible element of that disposition, and that to pick out (or to ‘individuate’) that disposition one must specify C along with S and R. This enables a new conditional analysis of dispositions that gives intuitively satisfying answers in cases that pose problems for other approaches. (shrink)
According to phenomenal conservatism, seemings can provide prima facie justification for beliefs. In order to fully assess phenomenal conservatism, it is important to understand the nature of seemings. Two views are that (SG) seemings are a sui generis propositional attitude, and that (D2B) seemings are nothing over and above dispositions to believe. Proponents of (SG) reject (D2B) in large part by providing four distinct objections against (D2B). First, seemings have a distinctive phenomenology, but dispositions to believe do not. (...) Second, seemings can provide a non-trivial explanation for dispositions to believe, which wouldn’t be possible if seemings were dispositions to believe. Third, there are some dispositions to believe that are not seemings. Fourth, there are instances of seemings which are not dispositions to believe. I consider and reject each of these objections. The first and third objections rely on a misunderstanding of (D2B). The second objection fails because there are contexts in which an appeal to a previously unknown identity can provide an interesting explanation. The fourth objection overlooks the possibility of finkish and masked dispositions, phenomena which are widely accepted in the dispositions literature. I conclude that (D2B) escapes these common objections unscathed. (shrink)
In this paper, I distinguish two often-conflated theses—the thesis that all dispositions are intrinsic properties and the thesis that the causal bases of all dispositions are intrinsic properties—and argue that the falsity of the former does not entail the falsity of the latter. In particular, I argue that extrinsic dispositions are a counterexample to first thesis but not necessarily to the second thesis, because an extrinsic disposition does not need to include any extrinsic property in its causal (...) basis. I conclude by drawing some general lessons about the nature of dispositions and their relation to their causal bases. (shrink)
Many philosophers claim that understanding a logical constant (e.g. ‘if, then’) fundamentally consists in having dispositions to infer according to the logical rules (e.g. Modus Ponens) that fix its meaning. This paper argues that such dispositionalist accounts give us the wrong picture of what understanding a logical constant consists in. The objection here is that they give an account of understanding a logical constant which is inconsistent with what seem to be adequate manifestations of such understanding. I then outline (...) an alternative account according to which understanding a logical constant is not to be understood dispositionally, but propositionally. I argue that this account is not inconsistent with intuitively correct manifestations of understanding the logical constants. (shrink)
What are moral principles? In particular, what are moral principles of the sort that (if they exist) ground moral obligations or—at the very least—particular moral truths? I argue that we can fruitfully conceive of such principles as real, irreducibly dispositional properties of individual persons (agents and patients) that are responsible for and thereby explain the moral properties of (e.g.) agents and actions. Such moral dispositions (or moral powers) are apt to be the metaphysical grounds of moral obligations and of (...) particular truths about what is morally permissible, impermissible, etc. Moreover, they can do other things that moral principles are supposed to do: explain the phenomena “falling within their scope,” support counterfactuals, and ground moral necessities, “necessary connections” between obligating reasons and obligations. And they are apt to be the truthmakers for moral laws, or “lawlike” moral generalizations. (shrink)
General metaphysical arguments have been proposed in favour of the thesis that all dispositions have categorical bases (Armstrong; Prior, Pargetter, Jackson). These arguments have been countered by equally general arguments in support of ungrounded dispositions (Molnar, Mumford). I believe that this controversy cannot be settled purely on the level of abstract metaphysical considerations. Instead, I propose to look for ungrounded dispositions in specific physical theories, such as quantum mechanics. I explain why non-classical properties such as spin are (...) best interpreted as irreducible dispositional properties, and I give reasons why even seemingly classical properties, for instance position or momentum, should receive a similar treatment when interpreted in the quantum realm. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I argue that quantum dispositions should not be limited to probabilistic dispositions (propensities) by showing reasons why even possession of well-defined values of parameters should qualify as a dispositional property. I finally discuss the issue of the actuality of quantum dispositions, arguing that it may be justified to treat them as potentialities whose being has a lesser degree of reality than that of classical categorical properties, due to the incompatibility relations between non-commuting observables. (shrink)
The dispositional properties encountered in everyday experience seem to have causal bases in other properties, e.g., the microstructure of a vase is the causal basis of its fragility. In contrast, the Pure Dispositions Thesis maintains that some dispositions require no causal basis. This thesis faces the Problem of Being: without a causal basis, there appears to be no grounds for the existence of pure dispositions. This paper establishes criteria for evaluating the problem, critically examines four theories of (...) the being of pure dispositions, and develops an explanation of how a pure disposition grounds itself via its own power. (shrink)
It is agreed on all hands that the original version of the conditional analysis of dispositions is defeated by so-called finks and maskers. Some have responded to this predicament by contending that the counterfactual on the right-hand side of the analysis should be expected to hold only when the property it purports to describe is in normal conditions. The essay argues that at the end of the day this idea must presuppose that one is able to arrive at specific (...) descriptions of the factors interfering with the manifestation of a disposition, which calls into question its utility. (shrink)
This paper examines the need for static dispositions within the basic ontology of the powers view of properties. To lend some focus, Neil Williams’s well developed case for static dispositions is considered. While his arguments are not necessarily intended to address fundamental ontology, they still provide a useful starting point, a springboard for diving into the deeper metaphysical waters of the dispositionalist approach. Within that ontological context, this paper contends that Williams’s arguments fail to establish the need to (...) posit static dispositions, or at least any sort not already well appreciated by advocates of the powers view. The paper then proceeds to suggest an alternative motivation for positing static dispositions, the success of which depends greatly on which ontological approach to objects is paired with the powers view. (shrink)
Start with an ordinary disposition ascription, like ‘the wire is live’ or ‘the glass is fragile’. Lewis gives a canonical template for what he regards as the analysandum of such an ascription:“Something x is disposed at time t to give response r to stimulus s”.For example, the wire is disposed at noon to conduct electrical current when touched by a conductor.What Lewis calls “the simple conditional analysis” gives putatively necessary and sufficient conditions for the analysandum in terms of a counterfactual:“if (...) x were to undergo stimulus s at time t, x would give response r”.Call this the counterfactual analysans. For example: If the wire were to be touched by a conductor at noon, the wire would conduct electricity.So we have three things in play: the ordinary disposition ascription ; the canonical template that is supposed to formalize this disposition ascription; and the counterfactual analysans that is supposed to provided an analysis of the canonical template.Finkish dispositions have been widely regarded as counterexamples to the adequacy of as an analysis of. I will argue that they are not. They succeed, however, as counterexamples to the adequacy of as an analysis of. That said, the classic cases are somewhat contrived. I will introduce the notion of a minkish disposition: a disposition that something has, even though it might not display it in response to the relevant stimulus. Cases of minkish dispositions are entirely familiar. They refute the adequacy of both as an analysis of and of. I will argue that they also refute Lewis’s own, more complicated counterfactual analysis of dispositions, and bring out an internal tension in his views. (shrink)
It is common in psychiatry and other sciences to describe an individual or a type of individual in terms of its disposition to manifest specific effects in a particular range of circumstances. According to one understanding, dispositions are statistical regularities of an individual or type of individual in specific circumstances. According to another understanding, dispositions are properties of individuals in virtue of which such regularities hold. This entry considers a number of ways of making each of these senses (...) of disposition more precise while discussing a number of dangers lurking in careless use of the concept of a disposition. (shrink)
In line with recent efforts to empirically study the folk concept of weakness of will, we examine two issues in this paper: (1) How is weakness of will attribution (WWA) influenced by an agent’s violations of best judgment and/or resolution, and by the moral valence of the agent’s action? (2) Do any of these influences depend on the cognitive dispositions of the judging individual? We implemented a factorial 2 × 2 × 2 between-subjects design with judgment violation, resolution violation, (...) and action valence as independent variables, and measured participants’ cognitive dispositions using Frederick’s Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT). We conclude that intuitive and reflective individuals have two different concepts of weakness of will. The study supports this claim by showing that: (1) the WWA of intuitive subjects is influenced by the action’s (and probably also the commitment’s) moral valence, while the WWA of reflective subjects is not; (2) judgment violation plays a small role in the WWA of intuitive subjects, while reflective subjects treat resolution violation as the only relevant trait. Data were collected among students at two different universities. All subjects (N = 710) answered the CRT. A three-way ANOVA was first conducted on the whole sample and then on the intuitive and reflective groups separately. This study suggests that differences in cognitive dispositions can significantly impact the folk understanding of philosophical concepts and thus suggests that analysis of folk concepts should take cognitive dispositions into account. (shrink)
This paper discusses Lee’s argument that Lewis’s reformed conditional analysis of dispositions is preferable to the simple conditional analysis of dispositions. Lee’s argument is basically that there are some examples that can be adequately handled by Lewis’s analysis but cannot by the simple conditional analysis of dispositions. But I will reveal that, when carefully understood, they spell no trouble for the simple conditional analysis of dispositions, failing to serve a motivating role for Lewis’s analysis.
Dispostions, such as solubility, cannont be reduced to categorical properties, such as molecular structure, without some element of dipositionaity remaining. Democritus did not reduce all properties to the geometry of atoms - he had to retain the rigidity of the atoms, that is, their disposition not to change shape when a force is applied. So dispositions-not-to, like rigidity, cannot be eliminated. Neither can dispositions-to, like solubility.
This paper addresses the use of dispositions in the Infectious Disease Ontology (IDO). IDO is an ontology constructed according to the principles of the Open Biomedical Ontology (OBO) Foundry and uses the Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) as an upper ontology. After providing a brief introduction to disposition types in BFO and IDO, we discuss three general techniques for representing combinations of dispositions under the headings blocking dispositions, complementary dispositions, and collective dispositions. Motivating examples for each (...) combination of dispositions is given along with a specific use case in IDO. Description logic restrictions are used to formalize statements relating to these combinations. (shrink)
Some philosophers hold that rational explanations—explanations of people’s attitudes and actions that cite their reasons for forming these attitudes or performing these actions—are dispositional. The hold that rational explanations do their explanatory work by representing these attitudes and actions as the product of dispositions on the part of the subject. I challenge arguments to this effect by Barry Stroud and Michael Smith. And I argue that human beings do not possess, and could not possess, the dispositions required for (...) the dispositionalist account. I propose an alternative account of rational explanation, one that exploits the connection between rational explanations and rational deliberation to show how such explanations can be simultaneously normative and causal. (shrink)
Future-directed intentions, it is widely held, involve behavioral dispositions. But of what kind? Suppose you now intend to Φ at future time t. Are you thereby now disposed to Φ at t no matter what? If so, your intention disposes you to Φ even if around t you will come to believe that Φ-ing would be crazy. And would not that be a crazy intention to have? – Like considerations have led Luca Ferrero and others to believe that only (...) intentions with strong internal conditions are capable of rationality. This paper explores in how far a broadly dispositional view of intention supports their claims. Its first point will come as a surprise: Intentions indeed involve dispositions toward follies in plenty. Natural objections against this bizarre-sounding claim are shown to fail, and standard counterfactual analyses of disposition locutions are shown to underpin it further. However, since the dispositions at issue are pro tanto dispositions, the consequences are not as odd as might be expected: When hedged by reasonable habits to reconsider one’s intentions, dispositions toward follies do not entail any actual crazy behavior. On balance, unconditional intention is therefore found rational after all. Dispositions toward crazy actions need not be crazy dispositions. (shrink)
Defends the arguments for the irredicibility of dispositions to categorical properties in "Are dispositions reducible to categorical properties?" (Philosophical Quarterly 36, 1986) against the criticisms of D.M. Armstrong (Philosophical Quarterly 38, 1988).
Recently, Choi has argued that current accounts of intrinsically finkable dispositions lead to absurd consequences in certain everyday cases. In this paper I offer a new argument for the existence of intrinsically finkable dispositions, one which provides a new way of testing for the presence of such dispositions. It is then argued that, with this new test in place, Choi’s examples no longer present a problem for the view that some dispositions are intrinsically finkable.
This thesis examines the relationship between dispositional properties (such as solubility and fragility) and causation. It is argued that dispositions are best explained in terms of causal processes. The resulting explanation avoids violating Humean strictures that prohibit necessary connections between distinct existences. It also gives rise to a novel account of the distinction between dispositional and categorical properties.
This thesis proposes that key, competing theories of dispositions mistake and conflate how we identify, designate and talk about dispositions and dispositional terms for the nature of dispositions and the meaning of dispositional terms when they argue that: a) dispositions are extrinsic properties of their bearers (Boyle 1666) b) all properties are purely dispositional (Bird 2007) c) all properties are purely categorical (there are no dispositional properties) (Armstrong in AMP 1996) d) dispositional and categorical properties are (...) separate and distinct properties (Prior, Pargetter and Jackson 1982). In so doing these theories make unwarranted and unsupported ontological conclusions about dispositions. The thesis traces the principal source of this confusion and conflation to a reliance on the counterfactual analysis of dispositions that wrongly encourages the conflation of a disposition (say fragility) with its manifestation (shattering). There is good reason to hold that the counterfactual analysis of dispositions is false — the truth of a counterfactual statement (such as “if x were dropped x would break”) is neither necessary nor sufficient for the truth of a dispositional ascription (such as “x is fragile”). (shrink)
The original article, 'Are dispositions reducible to categorical properties? (Philosophical Quarterly, 36, 1986), argued that dispositions are not so reducible. The present article defends this view against the criticisms of D M Armstrong (Philosophical Quarterly, 38, 1988). Dispositions are distinguished from fully categorical properties like symmetry.
Stephen Mumford puts forward a new theory of dispositions, showing how central their role is in metaphysics and philosophy of science. Much of our understanding of the physical and psychological world is expressed in terms of dispositional properties--from the solubility of sugar to the belief that zebras have stripes. Mumford discusses what it means to say that something has a property of this kind, and how dispositions can possibly be real things in the world. His clear, straightforward, realist (...) account reveals them to be less mysterious than they seem, and shows that an understanding of dispositions is essential to an understanding of properties, causation, and scientific laws. (shrink)
The Simple Counterfactual Analysis (SCA) was once considered the most promising analysis of disposition ascriptions. According to SCA, disposition ascriptions are to be analyzed in terms of counterfactual conditionals. In the last few decades, however, SCA has become the target of a battery of counterexamples. In all counterexamples, something seems to be interfering with a certain object’s having or not having a certain disposition thus making the truth-values of the disposition ascription and of its associated counterfactual come apart. Intuitively, however, (...) it would seem that, if all interferences were absent, the disposition ascription and its associated conditional would have the same truth-value. Although this idea may seem obvious, it is far from obvious how to implement it. In fact, it has become widely assumed that the content of qualifying ceteris paribus clauses (such as ‘if all interferences were absent’) cannot be specified in a clear and non-circular manner. In this paper, I will argue that this assumption is wrong. I will develop an analysis of disposition ascriptions, the Interference-Free Counterfactual Analysis, which relies on a clear and non-circular definition of the notion of interference and avoids the standard counterexamples to SCA while vindicating the intuition that disposition ascriptions and counterfactual conditionals are intimately related. (Please note that an erratum has been issued for the published version of this paper. It is recommended to read the self-archived version of the paper.). (shrink)
Some time ago, Joel Katzav and Brian Ellis debated the compatibility of dispositional essentialism with the principle of least action. Surprisingly, very little has been said on the matter since, even by the most naturalistically inclined metaphysicians. Here, we revisit the Katzav–Ellis arguments of 2004–05. We outline the two problems for the dispositionalist identified Katzav in his 2004 , and claim they are not as problematic for the dispositional essentialist at it first seems – but not for the reasons espoused (...) by Ellis. (shrink)
According to the Simple Conditional Analysis of disposition ascriptions, disposition ascriptions are to be analyzed in terms of counterfactual conditionals. The Simple Conditional Analysis is notoriously vulnerable to counterexamples. In this paper, I introduce a new sort of counterexample to the Simple Conditional Analysis of disposition ascriptions, which I call ‘tricks’. I then explore a number of possible strategies to modify the Simple Conditional Analysis so as to avoid tricks and conclude that, in order to avoid tricks, the associated counterfactual (...) should be evaluated at the closest possible world at which the manifestation of the disposition does not obtain. (shrink)
In this paper I take a look at what I take to be the best argument for dispositions. According to this argument we need dispositions in order to understand certain features of scientific practice. I point out that these dispositions have to be continuously manifestable. Furthermore I will argue that dispositions are not the causes of their manifestations. However, dispositions and causation are closely connected. What it is to be a cause can best be understood (...) in terms of counterfactuals that are based on dispositions. (shrink)