Can Dispositional Essences Ground the Laws of Nature?

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (2):263 - 275 (2011)
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Abstract

A dispositional property is a tendency, or potency, to manifest some characteristic behaviour in some appropriate context. The mainstream view in the twentieth century was that such properties are to be explained in terms of more fundamental non-dispositional properties, together with the laws of nature. In the last few decades, however, a rival view has become popular, according to which some properties are essentially dispositional in nature, and the laws of nature are to be explained in terms of these fundamental dispositions. The supposed ability of fundamental dispositions to ground natural laws is one of the most attractive features of the dispositional essentialist position. In this paper, however, I cast doubt on the ability of dispositional essences to ground the laws of nature. In particular I argue that the dispositional essentialist position is not able to coherently respond?sympathetically or otherwise?to Cartwright's challenge that there are no true general laws of nature.

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Richard Corry
University of Tasmania

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