SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

In Defense of a "Mixed View" about Powers and Properties
(Metaphysics and Ontology, English)

Powers realism is the view that the powers of individual objects are conceptually and ontologically irreducible features of the actual world. The powers realist thus rejects the still-popular project of trying to give conditional analyses of statements that employ power terms, where such analyses seek to "reduce" supposedly problematic or obscure concepts to concepts which fit more comfortably into a "naturalistic" picture of the world. This comes in part because powers realism rejects any variety of Humean metaphysics according to which the world is comprised merely of events or facts that sometimes happen to fall into "patterns", but which never bear any sort of necessary connection to one another. Even if we suppose that every true proposition ascribing a power to an object entails a true counterfactual conditional proposition about how that object would behave in certain circumstances, any such true conditional would appear to require a truthmaker -- i.e., something that makes it true. But it seems that only the distinctive powers that objects of various kinds bear, and which they exercise in their interactions with one another, could possibly be the needed truthmakers.
I begin by briefly making a case for understanding powers as (irreducible) properties of objects. If this is right, then the powers theorist must aim to find an alternative to categoricalism, which is the view that all (sparse or natural) properties are "qualitative" (or "categorical") and causally inert. This, of course, is a view of properties that fits nicely into a Humean picture of the world, but it is also adopted by some anti-Humeans, including notably Armstrong. There are three main alternatives to categoricalism: (1) pandispositionalism, which holds that all properties are "pure" powers; (2) the identity view, according to which all properties are both qualitative and powerful; and (3) the mixed view, which posits two irreducible categories of properties -- most commonly, one category comprised of non-powers and the other of pure powers. I will argue that the powers realist should reject pandispositionalism and the identity view in favor of a particular version of the mixed view -- one which holds that objects have powers, understood as irreducible intrinsic properties, in virtue of having non-power intrinsic properties.

Chair: Petter Sandstad
Time: 14:00-14:30, 15 September 2017 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.003
Remark: CHANGE. The talk is cancelled!

George Stamets 
(University of Leeds, United Kingdom)

I am a PhD student in the philosophy program at the University of Leeds, with primary research interests in philosophy of action, mind, and metaphysics generally. My PhD thesis, being prepared under the supervision of Professor Helen Steward, defends a powers-based approach to free will and ultimately a non-causal libertarian account of human agency, which will be built upon a substance-powers theory of causation (centered on the claim that causation in general consists in the exercise, by individual substances, of irreducible intrinsic powers). The project will divide into sections on (1) powers, causality, and laws of nature, (2) personhood and mental causation, and (3) free and intentional agency.

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