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Ideas of Brian Ellis, by Text

[Australian, b.1929, Professor at La Trobe University, and the University of Melbourne.]

1999 Response to David Armstrong
p.42 p.139 Space, time, and some other basics, are not causal powers
2001 Scientific Essentialism
Intro p.2 A proton must have its causal role, because without it it wouldn't be a proton
Intro p.8 Ontology should give insight into or an explanation of the world revealed by science
Intro p.10 Basic powers may not be explained by structure, if at the bottom level there is no structure
Intro p.10 To give essentialist explanations there have to be natural kinds
Intro p.11 Individual essences necessitate that individual; natural kind essences necessitate kind membership
Intro p.11 Scientific essentialism doesn't really need Kripkean individual essences
1.01 p.18 There are 'substantive' (objects of some kind), 'dynamic' (events of some kind) and 'property' universals
1.01 p.19 Universals are all types of natural kind
1.02 p.21 Natural kinds are distinguished by resting on essences
1.05 p.31 If there are borderline cases between natural kinds, that makes them superficial
1.06 p.33 Necessities are distinguished by their grounds, not their different modalities
1.09 p.46 Typical 'categorical' properties are spatio-temporal, such as shape
1.10 p.48 The old idea that identity depends on essence and behaviour is rejected by the empiricists
1.11 p.50 What is most distinctive of scientific essentialism is regarding processes as natural kinds
1.12 p.53 Causal powers must necessarily act the way they do
1.12 p.55 Scientific essentialism is more concerned with explanation than with identity (Locke, not Kripke)
2.03 p.68 'Being a methane molecule' is not a property - it is just a predicate
2.05 p.81 There might be uninstantiated natural kinds, such as transuranic elements which have never occurred
2.07 p.87 The extension of a property is a contingent fact, so cannot be the essence of the property
3.05 p.115 The most fundamental properties of nature (mass, charge, spin ...) all seem to be dispositions
3.06 p.119 Maybe dispositions can be explained by intrinsic properties or structures
3.06 p.120 There is no property of 'fragility', as things are each fragile in a distinctive way
3.09 p.127 The ontological fundamentals are dispositions, and also categorical (spatio-temporal and structural) properties
3.09 p.128 Laws don't exist in the world; they are true of the world
3.09 p.128 A causal power is a disposition to produce forces
3.11 p.132 Good explanations unify
3.11 p.132 Causal powers are often directional (e.g. centripetal, centrifugal, circulatory)
3.11 p.135 Powers are dispositions of the essences of kinds that involve them in causation
4.03 p.153 The point of models in theories is not to idealise, but to focus on what is essential
4.05 p.160 Explanations of particular events are not essentialist, as they don't reveal essential structures
7.06 p.241 A primary aim of science is to show the limits of the possible
7.06 p.242 Real possibility and necessity has the logic of S5, which links equivalence classes of worlds of the same kind
75,92 p.112 The property of 'being an electron' is not of anything, and only electrons could have it
8.04 p.269 Humean conceptions of reality drive the adoption of extensional logic
8.09 p.283 If events are unconnected, then induction cannot be solved
2002 The Philosophy of Nature: new essentialism
Intro p.3 Essentialists regard inanimate objects as genuine causal agents
Intro p.3 For 'passivists' behaviour is imposed on things from outside
Intro p.7 Kripke and others have made essentialism once again respectable
Ch.1 p.12 'Individual essences' fix a particular individual, and 'kind essences' fix the kind it belongs to
Ch.1 p.14 For essentialists two members of a natural kind must be identical
Ch.1 p.15 Metaphysical necessities are true in virtue of the essences of things
Ch.1 p.16 'Real essence' makes it what it is; 'nominal essence' makes us categorise it a certain way
Ch.3 p.41 Essentialists mostly accept the primary/secondary qualities distinction
Ch.3 p.43 Predicates assert properties, values, denials, relations, conventions, existence and fabrications
Ch.3 p.43 Redness is not a property as it is not mind-independent
Ch.3 p.47 Nearly all fundamental properties of physics are dispositional
Ch.3 p.48 Essentialists say dispositions are basic, rather than supervenient on matter and natural laws
Ch.3 p.49 Causal relations cannot be reduced to regularities, as they could occur just once
Ch.3 p.54 The essence of uranium is its atomic number and its electron shell
Ch.3 p.56 Essential properties are usually quantitatively determinate
Ch.3 n 11 p.58 Modern trope theory tries, like logical atomism, to reduce things to elementary states
Ch.4 p.59 Essentialists believe causation is necessary, resulting from dispositions and circumstances
Ch.4 p.59 For essentialists, laws of nature are metaphysically necessary, being based on essences of natural kinds
Ch.4 p.60 Primary qualities are number, figure, size, texture, motion, configuration, impenetrability and (?) mass
Ch.4 p.68 Properties are 'dispositional', or 'categorical' (the latter as 'block' or 'intrinsic' structures)
Ch.4 p.70 The passive view of nature says categorical properties are basic, but others say dispositions
Ch.5 p.82 Natural kinds are of objects/substances, or events/processes, or intrinsic natures
Ch.5 p.82 Essentialism says natural kinds are fundamental to nature, and determine the laws
Ch.5 p.85 The laws of nature imitate the hierarchy of natural kinds
Ch.5 p.91 Laws of nature tend to describe ideal things, or ideal circumstances
Ch.5 p.92 We must explain the necessity, idealisation, ontology and structure of natural laws
Ch.6 p.109 Essentialists say natural laws are in a new category: necessary a posteriori
Ch.6 p.113 One thing can look like something else, without being the something else
Ch.6 p.114 Imagination tests what is possible for all we know, not true possibility
Ch.6 p.115 Scientific essentialists say science should define the limits of the possible
Ch.6 p.120 The whole of our world is a natural kind, so all worlds like it necessarily have the same laws
Ch.7 p.126 Properties have powers; they aren't just ways for logicians to classify objects
Ch.7 p.129 Possible worlds realism is only needed to give truth conditions for modals and conditionals
Ch.7 p.131 Essentialists deny possible worlds, and say possibilities are what is compatible with the actual world
Ch.7 p.135 Essentialists don't infer from some to all, but from essences to necessary behaviour
Ch.7 p.137 Emeralds are naturally green, and only an external force could turn them blue
Ch.7 p.138 Essentialism says metaphysics can't be done by analysing unreliable language
Ch.7 p.138 Essentialism requires a clear separation of semantics, epistemology and ontology
Ch.7 p.141 Regularity theories of causation cannot give an account of human agency
Ch.7 p.143 Humans have variable dispositions, and also power to change their dispositions
Ch.7 p.156 Essentialism fits in with Darwinism, but not with extreme politics of left or right
Ch.7 p.161 A general theory of causation is only possible in an area if natural kinds are involved
2005 Katzav on limitations of dispositions
p.91 Least action is not a causal law, but a 'global law', describing a global essence
90 p.90 Without general principles, we couldn't predict the behaviour of dispositional properties
91 p.90 The natural kinds are objects, processes and properties/relations
91 p.91 A species requires a genus, and its essence includes the essence of the genus
91 p.91 A hierarchy of natural kinds is elaborate ontology, but needed to explain natural laws
2009 The Metaphysics of Scientific Realism
Intro p.2 I support categorical properties, although most people only want causal powers
1 p.14 We can base logic on acceptability, and abandon the Fregean account by truth-preservation
1 p.18 Metaphysics aims at the simplest explanation, without regard to testability
1 p.19 Metaphysical necessity holds between things in the world and things they make true
2 p.25 Science aims to explain things, not just describe them
2 p.39 A physical event is any change of distribution of energy
2 p.42 I deny forces as entities that intervene in causation, but are not themselves causal
2 p.44 Properties and relations are discovered, so they can't be mere sets of individuals
2 p.44 Physical properties are those relevant to how a physical system might act
2 p.45 Energy is the key multi-valued property, vital to scientific realism
3 p.54 Laws of nature are just descriptions of how things are disposed to behave
3 p.55 Causal powers can't rest on things which lack causal power
3 p.58 A real essence is a kind's distinctive properties
3 p.59 Natural kind structures go right down to the bottom level
3 p.60 There are natural kinds of processes
3 p.63 Essentialism needs categorical properties (spatiotemporal and numerical relations) and dispositions
3 p.68 Objects and substances are a subcategory of the natural kinds of processes
3 p.70 Spatial, temporal and numerical relations have causal roles, without being causal
3 n8 p.70 Categorical properties depend only on the structures they represent
5 p.93 Causal powers are a proper subset of the dispositional properties
6 p.116 Metaphysical necessities are those depending on the essential nature of things
6 p.117 Mathematics is the formal study of the categorical dimensions of things
6 p.124 Simultaneity can be temporal equidistance from the Big Bang
6 p.127 The present is the collapse of the light wavefront from the Big Bang