metaphysics of science
an AHRC funded research project
Matt Tugby (Research Description)
OUTLINE OF DOCTORAL RESEARCH
Thesis Title: ‘Pandispositionalism: A Study’ (80,000 words)
Of the four topics investigated within the AHRC Metaphysics of Science Project, I have been chiefly concerned with the topic of dispositions (although, as my thesis indicates, this topic is closely intertwined with, for example, those of causation and law). Pandispositionism is the strongest form of realism about dispositions; on this view, all physical properties (and relations) are irreducibly dispositional in nature. That is, the nature of each property is (at least in part) determined by the causal abilities it bestows upon its possessors.
After outlining some of the reasons why pandispositionalism is an attractive position, my thesis is split into two main parts. The first part falls under the broad title ‘The Metaphysics of Pandispositionalism’; in this part of the thesis, which comprises six chapters, I investigate what the world would have to be like (metaphysically), if the main claims of pandispositionalism were true. In the second part of the thesis, which comprises five chapters, I explore some of the favourable implications of pandispositionalism, implications which have not yet been fully appreciated in the philosophical literature. In particular, I develop a pandispositionalist account of the scientific notion of causation and also of the metaphysical notion of property realisation.
The two overarching conclusions of my thesis are:
- pandispositionalism offers a scientific realist view of the world which is sustainable, if formulated in the way I suggest;
- pandispositionalism offers the resources for providing theories of causation and realisation which have much to recommend them.
More specifically, the main conclusions reached in each thesis chapter are as follows:
- There are three versions of pandispositionalism: dispositional monism, the ‘two-sided’ view and the identity view. The identity view faces fatal objections.
- Irreducibly dispositional properties are best understood as universals which are internally related in a certain way.
- Dispositional structures may be modeled using a version of graph-theory. Each structure must be strongly asymmetric so that the identity of each element is determinate.
- In a structure of fundamental physical powers, each element must bear just one manifestation relation. Also, a power graph must be constructed in a way which accurately reflects the fact that manifestations are typically mutual manifestations of reciprocal dispositions working together.
- There is no limit on the amount of reciprocal powers that could be involved in a manifestation. Also, some power structures may involve spontaneously manifesting powers, and some powers will inevitably be unmanifestable (as conserved quantities are).
- There is no obvious reason why geometrical properties cannot be construed in dispositional terms, if understood in the right kind of way.
- Reciprocal dispositional partnerings and mutual manifestations may be understood as causes and effects (respectively). These causes and effects may occur simultaneously.
- Cases of causal propagation may be understood as cases in which distinct mutual manifestations are connected by a mediating mutual manifestation. This account of causation may be understood as a version of the process theory of causation.
- Property realisation (such as mental realisation) may be understood as a case of power manifestation. Viewing realisation in this way brings several advantages.
- Contrary to some recent claims, there is an important sense in which the occurrence of a disposition manifestation (or chance of an indeterministic manifestation) is necessary.