SOPhiA 2016

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Dispositions in Action: Laws of Nature, Explanation and Modality
(Affiliated Workshop, English)


09:00--09:30 Florian Fischer: Dispositional nomological necessity
Short break
09:35--10:15 Andreas Bartels: Between contingency and necessity of laws -- Armstrong revisited
Short break
10:20--11:00 Andreas Hüttemann: Conditional metaphysical necessity and the role of dispositions in scientific practice
Coffee break
11:20--12:00 Antje Rumberg: Potentialities for branching time
Short break
12:05--12:45 Ludger Jansen: Dispositions and the scientific explanation of actions


Andreas Bartels (Bonn): Between contingency and necessity of laws -- Armstrong revisited
The talk examines the chances of solving problems occurring for Armstrong's approach to laws (in particular the ``inference problem'') by implementing some non-essential dispositional element into the approach. Thereby, I argue, the most favorable feature of this approach -- it's ability to unify contingency and necessity of laws -- will be saved.

Florian Fischer (Bonn): Dispositional nomological necessity
Laws of nature are supposed to be neither pure contingencies nor as necessary as logical truth. A lot of accounts struggle with this peculiar modal status. Neo-Humeans seem to abolish the necessity of the laws all together. ADT (Armstrong/Dretske/Tooley) accept the necessity but instead of accounting for it they just posit it. Lange gives an interesting analysis of laws and necessity, which, however, is based on the obscure notion of counterfactual facts. Dispositional essentialists think that the laws hold with metaphysical necessity, which arguably can't deal with interferences. Mumford and Anjum have posited dispositional modality as an unanalysed basic, distinct from necessity, in the lights of this difficulties. I present an alternative dispositional account of laws of nature, which is centred around natural kinds. The necessity of the laws is not an unanalysed basic on this account but derived from the disposition manifestations and their combination rules. The resulting necessity is nomological instead of metaphysical necessity. This understanding of dispositional nomological necessity may come with costs, as it accepts dispositions and natural kinds in its fundamental ontology, but these are outweighed by the benefits, or so I argue.

Andreas Hüttemann (Cologne): Conditional metaphysical necessity and the role of dispositions in scientific practice
I will analyse the role of generalizations in scientific practice. The first feature I will look at is that when we explain, confirm, manipulate or predict typically lawstatements or generalizations are involved in one way or another. I will argue that these practices require a particular reading of the generalizations involved, namely as making claims about the behaviour of systems. These practices therefore presuppose the existence of systems or things. I will argue that this presupposition is not undermined by recent claims according to which fundamental physics implies that there are no things or objects. The second feature I will look at concerns the fact that generalizations typically concern the behaviour of systems considered as isolated while explanations, confirmations, manipulations and predictions typically concern non-isolated systems. Ceteris paribus clauses, which are often attached to law-statements, take account of the fact that systems are typically not on their own. Systems are interacted on and interfered with by other systems. Understanding how ceteris paribus clauses work thus helps us to understand why we can explain, confirm or manipulate the behaviour of systems that are parts of a larger whole. An analysis of the role of ceteris paribus clauses shows that we need to read laws (generalizations) as attributing dispositional properties to systems. Third, an analysis of the content of paradigmatic examples of generalizations shows that these dispositional properties are determinable properties with a highly complex, functional structure. I will argue that objections that have been raised against determinable properties need not worry us.

Ludger Jansen (Bochum/Rostock): Dispositions and the scientific explanation of actions
This paper examines the role of dispositions in the explanation of actions in Aristotle and Max Weber. In Aristotle we find both emotional and rational explanations for actions. Emotional explanations expicitly refer to specific dispositions for actions that come along with certain emotions. Rational explanations also presuppose a specific disposition, in order to solve the old chestnut how a practical deliberation in syllogistic form can lead to an action. Similarly, Max Weber's ideal-typical agents come along with specific dispositions. The problem is, however, how to account for less-than-ideal cases, that are mixtures of two or more of Weber's ideal types.

Antje Rumberg (Konstanz): Potentialities for branching time
In the Prior-Thomason theory of branching time, the modal-temporal structure of our world is pictured as a tree of histories, all of which share some common past and branch toward the future. What makes branching time structures especially appealing is that they allow for a direct representation of real possibilities, viz. of the alternative possibilities for the future in an indeterministic world. In order to obtain a model for real possibility, a close link between a branching time structure and the world needs to be established. What is needed is a specification of what is the case at the various moments of the branching structure. The specification has to be such that every history represents a course of events that is possible against the background of the prevailing laws of nature, and, what is more, the specification must respect the underlying branching time structure.
In my talk, I will provide a dynamic, modal explanation of branching time models in terms of potentialities. The basic idea is as follows: by manifesting their potentialities, objects jointly give direction to the possible future courses of events. Potentialities are thereby understood as genuine modal properties of objects whose manifestations point toward the future. I show that, starting out with a single moment and a specification of what is the case at that moment, a branching time model can be lifted step by step from the local arrangement of the objects existing at that moment and interaction of the manifestations of their potentialities. The result is a limited kind of indeterminism. What is really possible is determined by the potentialities, which, in a certain sense, can be considered the bearers of the laws of nature.

Chair: Florian Fischer
Time: 09:00-13:00, 7 September 2016 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.004

Andreas Bartels 
(University of Bonn, Germany)

Professor for philosophy of science at the University of Bonn.

Florian Fischer 
(University of Bonn, Germany)

PhD student at the University of Bonn.

Andreas Hüttemann 
(University of Cologne, Germany)

Professor at the University of Cologne.

Ludger Jansen 
(Bochum/Rostock, Germany)

Interim professor at the University of Bochum and Privatdozent at the University of Rostock.

Antje Rumberg 
(University of Konstanz, Germany)

PhD student at the University of Utrecht and researcher in the DFG research project ``Alternatives for the Future'' at the University of Konstanz.

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