Dispositions

Dissertation, Univeristy of New South Wales (2015)
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Abstract
This thesis proposes that key, competing theories of dispositions mistake and conflate how we identify, designate and talk about dispositions and dispositional terms for the nature of dispositions and the meaning of dispositional terms when they argue that: a) dispositions are extrinsic properties of their bearers (Boyle 1666) b) all properties are purely dispositional (Bird 2007) c) all properties are purely categorical (there are no dispositional properties) (Armstrong in AMP 1996) d) dispositional and categorical properties are separate and distinct properties (Prior, Pargetter and Jackson 1982). In so doing these theories make unwarranted and unsupported ontological conclusions about dispositions. The thesis traces the principal source of this confusion and conflation to a reliance on the counterfactual analysis of dispositions that wrongly encourages the conflation of a disposition (say fragility) with its manifestation (shattering). There is good reason to hold that the counterfactual analysis of dispositions is false — the truth of a counterfactual statement (such as “if x were dropped x would break”) is neither necessary nor sufficient for the truth of a dispositional ascription (such as “x is fragile”).
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