In ‘Finkish Dispositions’1 David Lewis proposes an analysis of dispositions which improves on the simple conditional analysis. In this paper I show that Lewis’ analysis still fails. I also argue that repairs are of no avail, and suggest why this is so.
I argue that to have an attitude is, primarily, (1.) to have a dispositional profile that matches, to an appropriate degree and in appropriate respects, a stereotype for that attitude, typically grounded in folk psychology, and secondarily, (2.) in some cases also to meet further stereotypical attitude-specific conditions. To have an attitude, on the account I will recommend here, is mainly a matter of being apt to interact with the world in patterns that ordinary people would regard as characteristic of (...) having that attitude. I contrast this view with alternative views that treat having an attitude as a matter of possessing some particular internally stored representational content or some other "deep" structural feature. (shrink)
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)
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)
Individual objects have potentials: paper has the potential to burn, an acorn has the potential to turn into a tree, some people have the potential to run a mile in less than four minutes. Barbara Vetter provides a systematic investigation into the metaphysics of such potentials, and an account of metaphysical modality based on them. -/- In contemporary philosophy, potentials have been recognized mostly in the form of so-called dispositions: solubility, fragility, and so on. Vetter takes dispositions as (...) her starting point, but argues for and develops a more comprehensive conception of potentiality. She shows how, with this more comprehensive conception, an account of metaphysical modality can be given that meets three crucial requirements: Extensional correctness: providing the right truth-values for statements of possibility and necessity; formal adequacy: providing the right logic for metaphysical modality; and semantic utility: providing a semantics that links ordinary modal language to the metaphysics of modality. -/- The resulting view of modality is a version of dispositionalism about modality: it takes modality to be a matter of the dispositions of individual objects. This approach has a long philosophical tradition going back to Aristotle, but has been largely neglected in contemporary philosophy. In recent years, it has become a live option again due to the rise of anti-Humean, powers-based metaphysics. The aim of Potentiality is to develop the dispositionalist view in a way that takes account of contemporary developments in metaphysics, logic, and semantics. (shrink)
Mumford puts forward a new theory of dispositions, showing how central their role in metaphysics and philosophy of science is. Much of our understanding of the physical and psychological world is expressed in terms of dispositional properties--from the spin of a sub-atomic particle to the solubility of sugar. 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.
We argue against accounting for dispositions (and of the progressive aspect) in terms of a fundamentally teleological metaphysics, and we defend our previous conditional account from some novel objections. -/- In “Teleological Dispositions,” Nick Kroll offers a novel theory of dispositions in terms of primitive directed states. Kroll is clear that his notion of directedness “outstrips talk of goals, purposes, design, and function”, and that it commits him to “primitive teleological facts”. This notion may strike some as (...) outdated and unscientific, but Kroll argues that it has an important theoretical role to play. In particular, he holds that a primitive notion of directedness can provide a theory of dispositions, an explanation of the link between dispositions and conditionals, and an account of the progressive aspect in English. In this paper, we raise some worries for each of these claims. (shrink)
Dispositions are essential to our understanding of the world. IDispositions: A Debate is an extended dialogue between three distinguished philosophers - D.M. Armstrong, C.B. Martin and U.T. Place - on the many problems associated with dispositions, which reveals their own distinctive accounts of the nature of dispositions. These are then linked to other issues such as the nature of mind, matter, universals, existence, laws of nature and causation.
Dispositions are modal properties. The standard conception of dispositions holds that each disposition is individuated by its stimulus condition(s) and its manifestation(s), and that their modality is best captured by some conditional construction that relates stimulus to manifestation as antecedent to consequent. I propose an alternative conception of dispositions: each disposition is individuated by its manifestation alone, and its modality is closest to that of possibility — a fragile vase, for instance, is one that can break easily. (...) The view is expounded in some detail and defended against the major objections. (shrink)
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.
This paper examines recent attempts to revive a classic compatibilist position on free will, according to which having an ability to perform a certain action is having a certain disposition. Since having unmanifested dispositions is compatible with determinism, having unexercised abilities to act, it is held, is likewise compatible. Here it is argued that although there is a kind of capacity to act possession of which is a matter of having a disposition, the new dispositionalism leaves unresolved the main (...) points of dispute concerning free will. (shrink)
Dispositional essentialism is a non-Humean view about the essences of certain fundamental or natural properties that looms large in recent metaphysics , not least because it promises to explain neatly the natural modalities such as laws of nature, counterfactuals, causation and chance. In the current paper, however, several considerations are presented that indicate a serious tension between its essentialist core thesis and natural “metaphysical” interpretations of its central explanatory claims.
I argue that disposition ascriptions—claims like ‘the glass is fragile’—are semantically equivalent to possibility claims: they are true when the given object manifests the disposition in at least one of the relevant possible worlds.
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)
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)
Are there dispositions which not only do not manifest, but which could not manifest? We argue that there are dispositions to Ф in circumstances C where C is impossible, and some where Ф is impossible. Furthermore, postulating these dispositions does useful theoretical work. This paper describes a number of cases of dispositions had by objects even though those dispositions are not possibly manifest, and argues for the importance of these dispositions.
It is generally agreed that dispositions cannot be analyzed in terms of simple subjunctive conditionals (because of what are called “masked dispositions” and “finkish dispositions”). I here defend a qualified subjunctive account of dispositions according to which an object is disposed to Φ when conditions C obtain if and only if, if conditions C were to obtain, then the object would Φ ceteris paribus . I argue that this account does not fall prey to the objections (...) that have been raised in the literature. (shrink)
Dispositions are essential to our understanding of the world. Dispositions: A Debate is an extended dialogue between three distinguished philosophers - D.M. Armstrong, C.B. Martin and U.T. Place - on the many problems associated with dispositions, which reveals their own distinctive accounts of the nature of dispositions. These are then linked to other issues such as the nature of mind, matter, universals, existence, laws of nature and causation.
Objects have dispositions. As Nelson Goodman put it, “a thing is full of threats and promises”. But sometimes those threats go unfulﬁlled, and the promises unkept. Sometimes the dispositions of objects fail to manifest themselves, even when their conditions of manifestation obtain. Pieces of wood, disposed to burn when heated, do not burn when heated in a vacuum chamber. And pastries, disposed to go bad when left lying around too long, won’t do so if coated with lacquer and (...) put on display in a baker ’s window. Any account of what a disposition is, or of what it takes for an object to have a disposition, should be compatible with these commonplace observations. To date, I believe, no adequate account of dispositions has been given, and the aim of this paper is to defend one. (shrink)
With the possible exception of causation, disposition concepts are as prevalent in ordinary thought as any of the nomic concepts. Progress on their nature has been hard to come by. No doubt the difficulty of saying anything illuminating and suitably general about their nature is a function of their pervasiveness.
Dispositional properties are often referred to as ‘causal powers’, but what does dispositional causation amount to? Any viable theory must account for two fundamental aspects of the metaphysics of causation – the causal complexity and context sensitivity of causal interactions. The theory of mutual manifestations attempts to do so by locating the complexity and context sensitivity within the nature of dispositions themselves. But is this theory an acceptable first step towards a viable theory of dispositional causation? This paper argues (...) that the reconceptualization that the theory entails comes at too high a price, and is an unnecessary step in the wrong direction: these two central aspects concerning the metaphysics of causation can and should be accounted for in a dispositional account of causation without it. (shrink)
Jennifer McKitrick offers an opinionated guide to the philosophy of dispositions. In her view, when an object has a disposition, it is such that, if a certain type of circumstance were to occur, a certain kind of event would occur. Since this is very common for this to be the case, dispositions are an abundant and diverse feature of our world.
Dispositional essentialists ultimately appeal to dispositional essences in order to provide (a) an explanation of the conservation of physical quantities and (b) identity conditions for fundamental physical properties. This paper aims to offer alternative suggestions based on symmetry considerations and exhibits their consequences for the thesis of dispositional essentialism.
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)
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)
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)
Dispositional compatibilists argue that a proper understanding of our abilities vindicates both compatibilism and the principle of Alternate Possibilities (the claim that the ability to do otherwise is required for freedom and moral responsibility). In this paper, I argue that this is mistaken. Both analyses of dispositions and abilities should distinguish between local and global dispositions or abilities. Once this distinction is in place, we see that neither thesis is established by an analysis of abilities.
This anthology consists of a collection of papers on the nature of dis positions and the role of disposition concepts in scientific theories. I have tried to make the collection as representative as possible, except that problems specifically connected with dispositions in various special sciences are relatively little discussed. Most of these articles have been previously published. The papers by Mackie, Essler and Trapp, Fetzer (in Section 11), Levi, and Tuomela appear here for the first time, and are simultaneously (...) published in Synthese 34, No. 4, which is a special issue on dispositions. Of the previously published material it should be emphasized that the papers by Hempel and Fisk have been extensively revised specially for this anthology. The papers are grouped in four sections, partlyon the basis of their content. However, due to the complexity of the issues involved, there is considerable overlap in content between the different sections, especially between Sections land 11. I wish to thank Professors James Fetzer and Carl G. Hempel for helpful advicc in compiling this anthology. (shrink)
Dispositional essentialism maintains that all sparse properties are essentially powerful. Two conceptions of sparse properties appear compatible with dispositional essentialism: sparse properties as pure powers or as powerful qualities. This paper compares the two views, criticizes the powerful qualities view, and then develops a new theory of pure powers, termed Point Theory. This theory neutralizes the main advantage powerful qualities appear to possess over pure powers—explaining the existence of powers during latency periods. The paper discusses the relation between powers and (...) space-time points, whether pure powers need to occupy space, and how to account for the movement of pure powers through space-time. Given Point Theory, dispositional essentialists should maintain that sparse properties are pure powers. (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)
Metaphysics should follow science in postulating laws alongside properties. I defend this claim against the claim that natural properties conceived as powers make laws of nature redundant. Natural properties can be construed in a “thin” or a “thick” way. If one attributes a property in the thin sense to an object, this attribution does not conceptually determine which other properties the object possesses. The thin construal is underlying the scientific strategy for understanding nature piecemeal. Science explains phenomena by cutting reality (...) conceptually in properties attributed to space-time points, where these properties are conceived of independently of each other, to explore then, in a separate step, how the properties are related to each other; those determination relations between properties are laws. This is compatible with the thesis that laws are metaphysically necessary. According to the thick conception, a property contains all its dependency relations to other properties. The dependency relationships between properties (which appear as laws in the thin conception) are parts of the properties they relate. There are several reasons to resist the thick conception of properties. It makes simple properties “holistic”, in the sense that each property contains many other properties as parts. It cannot account for the fact that properties constrain each other’s identity; it can neither explain why natural properties are linked to a unique set of dispositions, nor why and how this set is structured nor why the truth-maker of many disposition attributions is relational although the disposition is grounded on a monadic property. (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)
For the last several decades, dispositional properties have been one of the main topics in metaphysics. Still, however, there is little agreement among contemporary metaphysicians on the nature of dispositional properties. Apparently, though, the majority of them have reached the consensus that dispositional ascriptions cannot be analysed in terms of simple counterfactual conditionals. In this paper it will be brought to light that this consensus is wrong. Specifically, I will argue that the simple conditional analysis of dispositions, which is (...) generally thought to be dead, is in fact an adequate analysis of dispositions. I will go on to discuss Mumford’s view of dispositions from the perspective of the simple conditional analysis of dispositions. (shrink)
There has been much discussion of powers or real dispositions in the past decade, but there remains an issue that has been inadequately treated. This concerns the precise modal value that comes with dispositionality. We contend in this paper that dispositionality involves a non-alethic, sui generis, irreducible modality. Dispositions only tend towards their manifestations; they do not necessitate them. Tendency is, of course, a dispositional term itself, so this last statement offers little by way of illumination. But given (...) our thesis on the irreducible nature of dispositionality, we maintain that it cannot be explicated correctly in non-dispositional terms. Nevertheless, we all have experience of dispositionality at work, through the exercise or our own powers and the action of other powers upon us. The notion of dispositionality that we acquire is one that involves a modality stronger than pure contingency but weaker than necessity. The recognition of this distinct modal value for dispositionality is one of the biggest oversights in the growing literature in the area. Yet it is there for all to see in even the most mundane example. (shrink)
In recent decades, the analysis of causal relations has become a topic of central importance in analytic philosophy. More recently, dispositional properties have also become objects of intense study. Both of these phenomena appear to be intimately related to counterfactual conditionals and other modal phenomena such as objective chance, but little work has been done to directly relate them. This collection contains ten essays by scholars working in both metaphysics and in philosophy of science, examining the relation between dispositional and (...) causal concepts. (shrink)
Given certain well-known observations by Mach and Russell, the question arises what place there is for causation in the physical world. My aim in this chapter is to understand under what conditions we can use causal terminology and how it fi ts in with what physics has to say. I will argue for a disposition-based process-theory of causation. After addressing Mach’s and Russell’s concerns I will start by outlining the kind of problem the disposition based process-theory of causation is meant (...) to solve. In a second step I will discuss the nature of those dispositions that will be relevant for our question. In section 3 I will discuss existing dispositional accounts of causation before I proceed to present my own account (sections 4 to 6) and contrast it with traditional process-theories (section 7). (shrink)
A dispositional property is a tendency, or potency, to manifest some characteristic behaviour in some appropriate context. The mainstream view in the twentieth century was that such properties are to be explained in terms of more fundamental non-dispositional properties, together with the laws of nature. In the last few decades, however, a rival view has become popular, according to which some properties are essentially dispositional in nature, and the laws of nature are to be explained in terms of these fundamental (...)dispositions. The supposed ability of fundamental dispositions to ground natural laws is one of the most attractive features of the dispositional essentialist position. In this paper, however, I cast doubt on the ability of dispositional essences to ground the laws of nature. In particular I argue that the dispositional essentialist position is not able to coherently respond?sympathetically or otherwise?to Cartwright's challenge that there are no true general laws of nature. (shrink)
– The paper defends a naturalistic version of modal actualism according to which what is metaphysically possible is determined by dispositions found in the actual world. We argue that there is just one world—this one—and that all genuine possibilities are anchored by the dispositions exemplified in this world. This is the case regardless of whether or not those dispositions are manifested. As long as the possibility is one that would obtain were the relevant disposition manifested, it is (...) a genuine possibility. Furthermore, by starting from actual dispositional properties and branching out, we are able to include possibilities that are quite far removed from any state of affairs that happens to obtain, while still providing a natural and actual grounding of possibility. Stressing the importance of ontological considerations in any theory of possibility, it is argued that the account of possibility in terms of dispositional properties provides a more palatable ontology than those of its competitors. Coming at it from the other direction, the dispositional account of possibility also provides motivation for taking an ontology of dispositions more seriously. As well as the relevant dispositional notions required to lay out the view, the paper discusses the dispositional realism needed as the basis for the account of possibility. (shrink)
This paper has two main aims. The first is to present a general approach for understanding “dispositional” and “categorical” properties; the second aim is to use this approach to criticize Russellian Monism. On the approach I suggest, what are usually thought of as “dispositional” and “categorical” properties are really just the extreme ends of a spectrum of options. The approach allows for a number of options between these extremes, and it is plausible, I suggest, that just about everything of scientific (...) interest falls in this middle ground. I argue that Russellian Monism depends for its plausibility on the unarticulated assumption that there are no properties in the middle ground. (shrink)
This paper explores the prospects for dispositional accounts of abilities. According to so-called new dispositionalists, an agent has the ability to Φ iff they have a disposition to Φ when trying to Φ. We show that the new dispositionalism is beset by some problems that also beset its predecessor, the conditional analysis of abilities, and bring up some further problems. We then turn to a different approach, which links abilities not to motivational states but to the notion of success, and (...) consider ways of implementing that approach. Our results suggest that there are principled disanalogies between abilities and disposition which prevent any dispositional account of abilities from succeeding. (shrink)
Subjects who retain their beliefs in the face of higher-order evidence that those very beliefs are outputs of flawed cognitive processes are at least very often criticisable. Many think that this is because such higher-order evidence defeats various epistemic statuses such as justification and knowledge, but it is notoriously difficult to give an account of such defeat. This paper outlines an alternative explanation, stemming from some of my earlier work, for why subjects are criticisable for retaining beliefs in the face (...) of paradigm kinds of putatively defeating higher-order evidence: they manifest dispositions that are bad relative to a range of candidate epistemic successes such as true belief and knowledge. In particular, giving up belief in response to higher-order evidence only when that evidence is not misleading would require subjects to have dispositions that discriminate between cases in which their original cognitive processes is fine, and cases in which they merely seemed to be fine. But, I argue, such dispositions are not normally humanly feasible. I show that retaining belief in putative cases of defeat by higher-order evidence is problematic irrespective of whether veritism or some form of gnosticism is true. In the end I contrast my account of dispositional evaluations with similar-sounding ideas that have been put forth in the literature, such as consequentialist views that focus on instrumental means to success. (shrink)