School of Philosophy Staff Seminar - Powers Take the Field


Presented by Dr Richard Corry, UTAS

Start Date

1st Aug 2012 3:00pm

End Date

1st Aug 2012 5:00pm


Room 548, Humanities Building, Sandy Bay campus

RSVP / Contact Information

David Coady P: 6226 2272

Dr Richard Corry

School of Philosophy, University of Tasmania 

will present a paper entitled

 Powers Take the Field 

In the last decade or so, it has become increasingly popular among metaphysicians to argue that an ontology of essentially dispositional properties is the best way to make sense of causation and laws of nature. Recently, Stephen Mumford and Rani Anjum have attempted to spell out the dispositional view of causation by suggesting that dispositional properties should be modelled as vectors, analogous to the component forces found in physics. I am favourably disposed towards this account since it is very close to one that I have argued for previously. However, I believe that their model does not pay sufficient attention to the difference between a disposition and its manifestation. In particular, their model does not acknowledge the fact that dispositions may manifest themselves in some conditions and not in others, or—more generally—that the way a disposition manifests itself may depend on the conditions at play. One could rectify this problem by combining Mumford and Anjum’s model with a traditional conditional account of dispositions, but I will argue that a better solution is to model dispositional properties not as vectors, but as vector-fields. Unlike the conditional approach, the vector-field model gives a natural account of the infinitely-multi-track nature of many dispositions, and it provides a suggestive bridge to the ontology of fields found in physics.