Return to search

Powers, necessitation, and time

In this thesis I investigate the question of whether or not dispositional properties are able to necessitate their manifestations. I provide three main discussions that reflect three aspects of my question. The first and second discussions concern different aspects of the 'problem of prevention'. This is the premise that causal interactions can be subject to interference/prevention, generally construed. A number of philosophers have argued that the problem of prevention undercuts the necessitation of lawful regularities in the context of dispositional essentialism. We can term this issue the 'necessitation issue'. In the first discussion I examine whether or not antidotes qua preventative entities are metaphysically possible within the context of Alexander Bird's (2007) dispositional monism. I argue that Bird's theory raises a problem of ontological representation re antidotes. The line of thought in this discussion is that it is difficult for Bird to say what antidotes are and how they operate; nevertheless, in this discussion I provide a solution to my problem that stays within the confines of Bird's dispositional monism. In this section of the thesis I remain neutral on the necessitation issue, but I take myself to clarify the question of whether or not dispositional properties are able to necessitate their manifestations by criticising Bird's model of antidotes/prevention and setting out a replacement. In the second discussion I examine Stephen Mumford and Rani Lill Anjum's (2011) anti-necessitarian strategies. Mumford and Anjum's 'causal dispositionalism' encompasses a theory of dispositional properties, antidotes, and prevention. Mumford and Anjum's causal dispositionalism is not subject to the problem of ontological representation that Bird's theory raises; nevertheless, I argue that their theory is multiply problematic. The purpose of this discussion, taken as a whole, is to show that a recent strategy for attacking the necessitarian claim of dispositional essentialism is weaker than it has appeared to a number of philosophers. In this section of the thesis I move from a neutral stance on necessitation to a defensive stance. In the first two stages of the thesis, which concern the problem of prevention, I work with the background assumption that dispositional essentialism is a tenable position. In the third section of this thesis, however, I begin by endorsing Stephen Barker's (2013) essay The Emperor's New Metaphysics of Powers, which argues that the main articulations of dispositional essentialism are either internally inconsistent or otherwise disguised versions of brute modalism, where brute modalism focuses upon possible worlds as oppose to properties. In response, I develop a replacement position for dispositional essentialism that I term 'temporal essentialism'. I advance temporal essentialism as a prototype position in the properties and laws debate. It aims to provide a metaphysical explanation for lawful regularities by drawing upon the passage of time. In short, temporal essentialism is the position that it is built into a system of ontology that it dynamically adds new entities to its ontological categories and constructs states of affairs in a rule-following way.
Date January 2015
CreatorsWestland, David William
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

Page generated in 0.0013 seconds