Joseph Bjelde: „What Episteme Does“ 

The individuation condition for powers which Socrates states in Republic V (477c-d) depends on two factors: what a power is over (epi), and what the power does.  In this talk, I try to get clear on what Socrates has in mind with these two factors.  In particular, I argue that the standard answers in the literature are poorly supported by the evidence offered for them, and that if we take into account what Plato’s Socrates says about powers elsewhere in the Platonic Corpus, then it looks as if Plato has a less determinate, but more plausible, account of individuating powers.  As an added benefit, this account also liberates Plato from a commitment to a two-world epistemology.

Julia Joráti: „Leibniz on the permanent and temporary dispositions of monads“

Dispositions, powers, or forces are extremely unpopular in early modern philosophy.  It is not difficult to identify some of the reasons for this lack of popularity: Most major early modern figures are mechanists, and to mechanists, invoking dispositions can easily look like the occult scholastic explanations that they are so eager to avoid.  Natural, bottom-level explanations of physical events, according to mainstream mechanists, should invoke only categorical properties of bodies such as size, shape, and motion.  Hence, the general trend was to either shun dispositions altogether, or view them as non-fundamental and reducible.  Leibniz—who famously bucks many philosophical trends of his period—is a noticeable exception.  He invokes dispositions frequently and unabashedly, insisting that irreducible powers or forces are needed to explain the natural world fully.  This paper explores Leibniz’s theory of the nature of dispositions, which has so far received surprisingly little attention.  One upshot of the paper is that dispositions are the fundamental building blocks of everything else in the created world, for Leibniz: they are the sole occupants of the metaphysical ground floor of Leibniz’s mature system.  Substances are fundamentally force-like, and their states or actions are modifications of a primitive force.

Anna Marmodoro: „Galen on the activity of powers“

Although Galen’s conception of power is Aristotelian, he describes the activity of powers in non-Aristotelian ways. I will examine Galen’s conception of the activity of powers, and of the interaction between powers, in order to determine the degree to which Galen develops an original conception of causal agency. This will further require an examination of Galen’s account of mixing, which combines both Aristotelian and Stoic doctrines.

Jennifer McKitrick: „Properties, Dispositions, and Counterfactuals“

If a disposition is a kind of property, a complete characterization of the metaphysics of dispositions requires saying something about the metaphysics of properties.   Given some account of properties in general, what would mean it for any of those properties to be dispositions? This talk will explore one line of response, according to which properties are determined by sets of objects.  A disposition, then, is a property that is determined by a set of objects which have certain counterfactuals true of them.  However, this metaphysical claim must be distinguished from a semantic analysis of disposition predicates, which are vague and do not reliably coincide with commonly associated counterfactuals.  Attributing a dispositional predicate to something only roughly indicates the counterfactuals that are true of it.   Counterfactuals can be true of things for a variety of reasons, one of those reasons being because a thing has a “power,” where a power is a special kind of disposition.  When something has a power, it has certain counterfactuals true of it because it has that power.

Vid Simoniti: „Beauty as a power“

Is beauty a property of an object or merely in the eye of the beholder? In ontology of aesthetic properties, subjectivist non-realism has been the dominant view. Against this trend, I advance a novel realist position, which conceives of aesthetic properties as powers; I draw on recent dispositionalist accounts of powers to flesh out my claim. I show how realism about aesthetic powers solves two puzzles in aesthetics, and I explain how the case of aesthetic properties is different from the case of colours. Though the resulting position might seem counter-intuitive, I claim it in fact captures the contemporary art critical Zeitgeist, which is more concerned with powers objects have over potential spectators, and less with the beholder herself.

Stephan Schmid: „The Distinction Between Active and Passive Powers: A Contemporary and a Suárezian Perspective“

The two most famous historical proponents of powers, Aristotle and Locke, both distinguished sharply between active and passive powers. While active powers are powers to initiate changes, passive powers are powers to undergo changes. This distinction, it seems, is as natural and straightforward as it can get. Nonetheless, it is strikingly absent in contemporary theories of powers or dispositions, and even among late Aristotelian authors it had a bad press. In my talk I seek to account for these two remarkable facts by turning to the Aristotelian background of the traditional distinction between active and passive powers and to the criticism of this distinction launched by the Spanish philosopher Francisco Suárez (1548-1617), who argued that an important sub-class of powers – viz. “immanent powers” – are active and passive at the same time

Barbara Vetter: „Local dispositions, global modality: the problem of necessary masks“

Dispositionalism about modality is the view that metaphysical modality is a matter of the dispositions possessed by actually existing objects. Unlike possible-worlds based views of modality, which are holistic (i.e., they start with how the world could have been as a whole), dispositionalism is localized: it tries to find the relevant parts of the world that ground a given possibility. I show how this very feature, localization, leads to a problem for dispositionalism: the problem of necessary masks. A necessarily masked disposition is one whose manifestation is necessarily prevented by external circumstances that are themselves necessarily present – thus making the manifestation of the disposition, by any reasonable modal logic, itself impossible. I examine in some detail the most threatening example of what might be necessary masks: necessary and deterministic laws of nature. The dispositionalist, as it turns out, had better not be both a necessitarian about the laws and a determinist.

Kadri Vihvelin: „Dispositions, Abilities, Free Will, and Agency“

We believe that we have free will, and this belief plays a central role in how we think about ourselves and about our lives. What we do is not the only thing we can do. The choices we make are not the only choices in our power to make. We are able to think for ourselves, whether or not we actually do so. We are able to try to do lots of things, whether or not we actually do try. We have abilities we don’t exercise, perhaps some abilities we never exercise. We don’t have to do what we do. We are able to do otherwise. Or so we believe.
It has seemed to many that if determinism is true, these commonsense beliefs are false. If determinism is true, there are facts about the distant past which, together with facts about the laws, entail the truth of every proposition about the present, including those propositions that we think are true in virtue of facts about our free choices. But if that is so, it seems that we never have a choice of any kind — big or small, important or trivial. If we choose to lie, we could not have chosen to tell the truth. If we choose the scenic mountain road, we could not have chosen the freeway. If we choose the apple, we could not have chosen the orange.
I believe that our commonsense beliefs about free will are true and would be true even if determinism turned out to be true. On my view the most fundamental free will facts are facts about our causal powers and our causal powers differ in complexity but not in kind from dispositions like fragility, elasticity, and flammability. We think that determinism is incompatible with free will because determinism seems to have the consequence that we have no power over anything, not even our own choices.   But if our causal powers are dispositions, this is not true. Determinism doesn’t have the consequence that there are no dispositions. Dispositions are real properties of their bearers; they don’t cease to exist simply because they are not being manifested. A rock doesn’t lose its window-breaking power just because it isn’t currently breaking windows. A person doesn’t lose her decision-making power just because she isn’t currently making a decision. Nor does she lose her power to decide to do one thing just because she makes another decision instead. Sometimes our surroundings prevent us from exercising one of our abilities in the way that Styrofoam packing prevents a fragile glass from breaking. But determinism doesn’t have the consequence that our surroundings are always unfavorable in these sorts of ways. I conclude, therefore, that determinism is compatible with our common sense view of ourselves as agents with choices and alternative courses of action.


Simona Aimar: „Potentialities as Efficient Causes in Aristotle“

Jonathan Beere: „Capacities in Aristotle“

Siegfried Jaag: „Dispositionalism about laws and natural modality“

Erasmus Mayr: „Dispositions and Responsibility“


(More abstracts and titles will follow soon.)

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