Primitive Modality

Stephen Mumford and Rani Lill Anjum

in Getting Causes from Powers

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199695614
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731952 | DOI:
Primitive Modality

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This book denied that causes necessitate their effects (Chapter 3). But what modality is involved in causation? This chapter argues that dispositionality is a primitive sui generis modality that is neither pure necessity nor pure contingency but something in between. This third option, that is neither the Humean mosaic nor necessitarian, was understood by Aquinas, in whose philosophy of nature there were natural tendencies, but it has been neglected since. Philosophers may be concerned that this modality is unfamiliar and obscure but the chapter claims that on the contrary that it is the best known modality, familiar to us all in causation but also to be found in normativity and intentionality. The chapter suggests that Dispositionality acts as a selection function that imposes a limitation on all the myriad possibilities. A finite class of those possibilities is selected as that towards which a power, an imperative or an intention (desire, hope, etc.) tends. The conditional analysis of dispositions we take to be an attempt to reduce away the dispositional modality. If we are right, in any such reductive account there would be a loss of true meaning.

Keywords: modality; dispositionality; Aquinas; normativity; intentionality; selection function; conditional analysis

Chapter.  8652 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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