Reacting to Dispositionalism

David M. Armstrong

in Sketch for a Systematic Metaphysics

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780199590612
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723391 | DOI:
Reacting to Dispositionalism

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A view that is currently popular is to identify properties as being nothing but powers, a position that can be called ‘Dispositionalism’. Causation becomes manifestations of dispositions, and non‐probable manifestations in suitable circumstances are necessitated. Such views are defended by Sydney Shoemaker, Stephen Mumford, and Alexander Bird. Robert Black calls the sort of position held by those who reject powers as ‘Quidditism’, giving universals (or tropes) a categorial nature that plays no executive role. It is argued against this that a purely dispositional account of properties leads to a regress that may not be self‐contradictory but is unbelievable. It seems particularly difficult to give an account of relations as powers. Some theorists, George Molnar and Brian Ellis in particular, give a mixed account, making spatial relations in particular categorical, and so not powers. Perhaps this gets the worst of both worlds.

Keywords: dispositions; powers; Sydney Shoemaker; Stephen Mumford; Alexander Bird; Robert Black; quidditism; categoricalism

Chapter.  1699 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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