Ideas of Stephen Mumford, by Theme

[British, fl. 2001, Professor at Nottingham University.]

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1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 5. Hopes for Philosophy
Science studies phenomena, but only metaphysics tells us what exists
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 1. Nature of Metaphysics
Maybe analysis seeks the 'nominal essence', and metaphysics seeks the 'real essence'
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 1. On Reason
Many forms of reasoning, such as extrapolation and analogy, are useful but deductively invalid
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 1. Nature of Existence
For Humeans the world is a world primarily of events
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 1. Realism
Modest realism says there is a reality; the presumptuous view says we can accurately describe it
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 3. Anti-realism
Anti-realists deny truth-values to all statements, and say evidence and ontology are inseparable
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 3. Types of Properties
Dispositions and categorical properties are two modes of presentation of the same thing
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 6. Categorical Properties
Categorical properties and dispositions appear to explain one another
Categorical predicates are those unconnected to functions
There are four reasons for seeing categorical properties as the most fundamental
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 7. Emergent Properties
A lead molecule is not leaden, and macroscopic properties need not be microscopically present
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 2. Powers as Basic
Properties are just natural clusters of powers
Dispositions are attacked as mere regularities of events, or place-holders for unknown properties
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 3. Powers as Derived
I say the categorical base causes the disposition manifestation
If dispositions have several categorical realisations, that makes the two separate
Dispositions are classifications of properties by functional role
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 5. Powers and Properties
All properties must be causal powers (since they wouldn't exist otherwise)
Intrinsic properties are just causal powers, and identifying a property as causal is then analytic
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / a. Dispositions
Dispositions are ascribed to at least objects, substances and persons
Dispositions can be contrasted either with occurrences, or with categorical properties
Unlike categorical bases, dispositions necessarily occupy a particular causal role
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / b. Dispositions and powers
Maybe dispositions can replace powers in metaphysics, as what induces property change
If dispositions are powers, background conditions makes it hard to say what they do
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / c. Dispositions as conditional
Orthodoxy says dispositions entail conditionals (rather than being equivalent to them)
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / e. Dispositions as potential
Dispositions are not just possibilities - they are features of actual things
There could be dispositions that are never manifested
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 7. Against Powers
If every event has a cause, it is easy to invent a power to explain each case
Traditional powers initiate change, but are mysterious between those changes
Categorical eliminativists say there are no dispositions, just categorical states or mechanisms
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / a. Nominalism
A 'porridge' nominalist thinks we just divide reality in any way that suits us
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 2. Resemblance Nominalism
If properties are clusters of powers, this can explain why properties resemble in degrees
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / a. Substance
Substances, unlike aggregates, can survive a change of parts
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 11. Essence of Artefacts
Many artefacts have dispositional essences, which make them what they are
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 14. Knowledge of Essences
How can we show that a universally possessed property is an essential property?
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 3. Combinatorial possibility
Maybe possibilities are recombinations of the existing elements of reality
Combinatorial possibility has to allow all elements to be combinable, which seems unlikely
Combinatorial possibility relies on what actually exists (even over time), but there could be more
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 8. Conditionals / c. Truth-function conditionals
Truth-functional conditionals can't distinguish whether they are causal or accidental
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 8. Conditionals / d. Non-truthfunction conditionals
Dispositions are not equivalent to stronger-than-material conditionals
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / a. Types of explanation
Nomothetic explanations cite laws, and structural explanations cite mechanisms
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / d. Lawlike explanations
General laws depend upon the capacities of particulars, not the other way around
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / j. Explanations by essence
If fragile just means 'breaks when dropped', it won't explain a breakage
14. Science / D. Explanation / 3. Best Explanation / b. Ultimate explanation
Subatomic particles may terminate explanation, if they lack structure
Maybe dispositions can replace the 'laws of nature' as the basis of explanation
To avoid a regress in explanations, ungrounded dispositions will always have to be posited
14. Science / D. Explanation / 4. Explanation Doubts / a. Explanation as pragmatic
Ontology is unrelated to explanation, which concerns modes of presentation and states of knowledge
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / d. Source of kinds
Natural kinds, such as electrons, all behave the same way because we divide them by dispositions
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 1. Causation / a. Causation
Causation interests us because we want to explain change
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. General Causation / b. Nomological causation
Singular causes, and identities, might be necessary without falling under a law
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. General Causation / c. Counterfactual causation
We can give up the counterfactual account if we take causal language at face value
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. General Causation / d. Causal necessity
It is only properties which are the source of necessity in the world
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 1. Laws of Nature
There are four candidates for the logical form of law statements
In the 'laws' view events are basic, and properties are categorical, only existing when manifested
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 3. Laws and Generalities
Without laws, how can a dispositionalist explain general behaviour within kinds?
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / a. Regularity theory
Regularity laws don't explain, because they have no governing role
It is a regularity that whenever a person sneezes, someone (somewhere) promptly coughs
Pure regularities are rare, usually only found in idealized conditions
Dretske and Armstrong base laws on regularities between individual properties, not between events
Regularities are more likely with few instances, and guaranteed with no instances!
Would it count as a regularity if the only five As were also B?
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / b. Best system theory
The best systems theory says regularities derive from laws, rather than consituting them
If the best system describes a nomological system, the laws are in nature, not in the description
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 5. Laws from Universals
If laws can be uninstantiated, this favours the view of them as connecting universals
Laws of nature are necessary relations between universal properties, rather than about particulars
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / b. Scientific necessity
The necessity of an electron being an electron is conceptual, and won't ground necessary laws
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / c. Essence and laws
Laws of nature are just the possession of essential properties by natural kinds
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / d. Knowing essences
Some dispositions are so far unknown, until we learn how to manifest them
To distinguish accidental from essential properties, we must include possible members of kinds
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 12. Against Laws of Nature
You only need laws if you (erroneously) think the world is otherwise inert
The Central Dilemma is how to explain an internal or external view of laws which govern
There are no laws of nature in Aristotle; they became standard with Descartes and Newton