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Reconsidering Causal PowersHistorical and Conceptual Perspectives$
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Henrik Lagerlund, Benjamin Hill, and Stathis Psillos

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780198869528

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198869528.001.0001

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Resurgent Powers and the Failure of Conceptual Analysis

Resurgent Powers and the Failure of Conceptual Analysis

(p.241) 10 Resurgent Powers and the Failure of Conceptual Analysis
Reconsidering Causal Powers

Jennifer McKitrick

Oxford University Press

Jennifer McKitrick examines the causes moving many philosophers to pull Aristotelian powers out of history’s dustbin, the failure to reduce or eliminate dispositional ascriptions from philosophical and scientific discourses. Although many see this failure as grounds for rejecting Humeanism and return to Aristotelianism, McKitrick argues that only a more moderate reaction is warranted. She argues that restricting analysis to fundamental dispositions and adding a condition requiring the power ascription be grounded in or made true by the fact that the object possesses that fundamental disposition is the better reaction. McKitrick canvasses the main twentieth-century attempts to reduce or eliminate dispositional talk. She begins with the logical positivists’ attempt to replace dispositional talk with material conditionals. Then, after briefly considering Ryle’s version, she turns to Goodman and the move to replace material conditional analyses with stronger-than-material conditionals, such as causal implication or counterfactual conditionals backed up by natural kinds and laws of nature. Next, she turns to Lewis’s possible worlds semantics and concludes with a presentation of the ‘Simple Counterfactual Analysis’. Despite these problems with providing analyses of dispositional ascriptions in terms of counterfactuals, McKitrick recognizes that there is still an important connection between dispositions and counterfactuals. A thing’s disposition is its property of having a certain kind of counterfactual hold of it. But she advocates restricting counterfactual analyses to fundamental dispositions and powers and requiring that they be made true, or grounded by, the fact that the object has that power.

Keywords:   powers, dispositions, conditionals, counterfactuals, mimics, finks, masks

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