Chaired by Stephen Mumford
Fundamental Powers, Evolved Powers, and Mental Powers
Powers have in recent years become a central component of many philoso- phers’ ontology of properties. While I have argued that powers exist at the fundamental level of properties, many other theorists of powers hold that there are also non-fundamental powers. In this paper I articulate my reasons for being sceptical about the existing reasons for holding that there are non-fundamental powers. However, I also want to promote a different argument for the existence of a certain class of non-fundamental powers: properties which have natural selection to thank for their existence and nature. Such properties will include functional properties of organisms, and so may also include their mental properties.
Alexander Bird is Peter Sowerby Professor of Philosophy and Medicine at King’s College London, having previously been professor of philosophy at the University of Bristol. His published books are Philosophy of Science (1998), Thomas Kuhn (2000), and Nature’s Metaphysics (2007). His current project Knowing Science, Knowing Medicine aims to bring insights from general epistemology to bear on the philosophy of science and medicine.
Evolved Powers, Artefact Powers, and Dispositional Explanations
Alexander Bird (2018) puts forward a modest version of anti-Humeanism about the non-fundamental, by providing an argument for the existence of a certain select class of non-fundamental but sparse dispositions: those that have an evolutionary function. I argue that his argument over-generates, so much so that the sparse–abundant distinction, and with it the tenet of his anti-Humean view, becomes obsolete. I suggest an alternative way of understanding anti-Humeanism in the non-fundamental realm, one which is not concerned with the existence of sparse properties but with explanatory relations.
Barbara Vetter is Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at Freie Universität Berlin. She has previously taught at Humboldt-Universität Berlin and Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen, and holds a BPhil and a DPhil from Oxford University. Barbara Vetter is the author of Potentiality: From Dispositions to Modality (OUP 2015), co-editor of Dispositionen: Texte aus der zeitgenössischen Debatte (with Stephan Schmid, Suhrkamp 2014) and has published various articles on dispositions, modality, abilities, and related issues in metaphysics, semantics, and philosophy of science. Most of her work focusses on developing and defending a disposition-based approach to modality.
6–8 July 2018
Faculty of Philosophy
Radcliffe Observatory Quarter 555
Oxford OX2 6GG
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