Speakers and Abstracts

Helen Beebee (University of Birmingham)
Against Dispositional Essentialism

It has been claimed (by e.g. Alexander Bird and Brian Ellis) that fundamental dispositions have ‚real essences‘, akin to natural kind essences, which deliver law-like truths about dispositions that are metaphysically but not conceptually necessary. This paper will argue that this position lacks the required Kripkean motivation.

Comment by Daniel Wehinger

Ralph Busse (Gutenberg University Mainz)
Existence, Essence, and Law

Scientific or dispositional essentialists hold that physical properties play their lawlike roles necessarily or essentially. It is not, however, clear what the status of necessity of the connection between properties and their roles is supposed to be. The essentialist cannot be content with a mere primitive concept of necessity, as her claim concerns the fundamental set-up of the world and not just our system of concepts. Nor can the status of necessity be a fundamental property on a par with fundamental mass or charge, or so I shall argue. In order to locate necessity in the fundamental set-up of the world, the essentialist needs to radically revise our view of what it is for something to be an existing thing in the world: she has to downgrade things from self-standing pieces of the world to mere aspects of the world, thereby moving in the direction of ontological monism or even nihilism. One may well ask whether this move is worth its price.

Comment by Matthew Tugby

Richard Corry (University of Tasmania)
Powers take the Field

Recently, Mumford and Anjum have suggested that powers should be modelled  as vectors, analogous to the component forces found in physics. I am favourably disposed towards this account since it is very close to one that I have argued for previously. However, I believe that their model does not pay sufficient attention to the difference between a power and its manifestation. In particular, their model does not acknowledge the fact that powers may manifest themselves in some conditions and not in others, or—more generally—that the way a power manifests itself may depend on the conditions at play. One could rectify this problem by combining Mumford and Anjum’s model with the traditional conditional account of dispositions, but I will argue that a better solution is to model powers not as vectors, but as vector-fields. Unlike the conditional approach, the vector-field model gives a natural account of the infinitely-multi-track nature of many (all?) powers, and it provides a suggestive bridge to the ontology of fields found in physics.

Comment by Kristina Engelhard

Jonathan Jacobs (St. Louis University)
How to be an Aristotelian and a reductionist about modality

I explore a neo-Aristotelian theory of the grounds for modal truths, according to which modality is grounded in substances and their powers. I argue that, in at least one important sense, the theory is reductive: modal truths are not fundamental.

Comment by Stefan Schmid

James Ladyman (Bristol University)
Dispositions and Forces

Dispositionalists have claimed that forces and perhaps other vector quantities in physics should be understood as primitive dispositions. However, attention to how forces are described in contemporary physics does not seem to support this view.

Comment by Alexander Reutlinger

Olivier Massin (University of Geneva)
When forces meet each other

An attempt to tackle the addition of component forces: I defend component forces against resultant ones.

Comment by John Roberts

Barbara Vetter (Humboldt University Berlin)
How to be a dispositionalist about possibility

The view that modality in general is grounded in dispositional properties has appealed to many anti-Humean metaphysicians, but few have tried to explicitly formulate a dispositionalist theory. I will provide the outlines of such a theory, highlight some problems and desiderata, and propose ways of dealing with them. In particular, I will draw attention to the question how the dispositionalist view can deliver a conception of possibility that fits into modal logic as we know it.

Comment by Arno Goebel

Daniel von Wachter (Catholic University Chile)
Causes do not necessitate their effect

Thomas Hobbes taught that all effects ‘have their necessity in things antecedent’. Kant’s ‘Kausalprinzip’ expressed something similar. And also today it is generally assumed that complete causes under the given circumstances and under unchanging laws of nature necessitate their effect. In this talk I shall reject all these claims and, while holding that there are singular causal connections, argue that event causes do not and cannot necessitate their effect. Spelling out the various reasons why an event cause does not necessitate its effect, I shall explain why there is no adequate sense of ‘necessitate’ with which it would be true to say that complete causes necessitate their effect. ‘Nomic necessity’ turns out to be a misnomer.

Comment by Siegfried Jaag

Neil Williams (University at Buffalo)
The Significance of Causal Relevance

The typical understanding of powers—according to which they have their effects necessarily—has recently come under attack.  The threat of imagined counterfactual scenarios (wherein the power is exercised but the characteristic manifestation does not ensue) has led some to question the traditional picture, and prompted others to give it up entirely.  But this defection has been too hasty; the promise of necessity that powers offer ranks highly among their most attractive features and should not be discarded lightly.   However, meeting the challenge the counterfactual scenarios present forces us into a similarly disquieting problem of causal containment, concerning our ability to restrict the limits of what is causally relevant within a specific scenario.  Hence we are stuck with something of a dilemma: either we hold tightly to necessity and thereby weaken our grip on containment, or we keep containment at the cost of necessity—and in so doing lose an attractive aspect of powers.  Resolving the dilemma requires a closer look at the notion of causal relevance.  On closer inspection it turns out that causal relevance has only limited ontological significance, and hence that the first horn of the dilemma is more comfortable than it appeared.

Comment by Elina Pechlivanidi