Can bare dispositions explain categorical regularities?
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One of the traditional desiderata for a metaphysical theory of laws of nature is that it be able to explain natural regularities. Some philosophers have postulated governing laws to fill this explanatory role. Recently, however, many have attempted to explain natural regularities without appealing to governing laws. Suppose that some fundamental properties are bare dispositions. In virtue of their dispositional nature, these properties must be (or are likely to be) distributed in regular patterns. Thus it would appear that an ontology including bare dispositions can dispense with governing laws of nature. I believe that there is a problem with this line of reasoning. In this essay, I’ll argue that governing laws are indispensable for the explanation of a special sort of natural regularity: those holding among categorical properties (or, as I’ll call them, categorical regularities). This has the potential to be a serious objection to the denial of governing laws, since there may be good reasons to believe that observed regularities are categorical regularities.
KeywordsBare dispositions Laws of nature Natural regularities Dispositional essentialism Non-Humeanism Governing laws
I would like to thank Graeme Forbes, Michaela McSweeney, Noël Saenz, Michael Tooley, Chad Vance, and anonymous referees from Philosophical Studies and The Philosophical Quarterly for valuable comments, criticisms, and suggestions. I would also like to thank audiences at the 2011 Society for Exact Philosophy conference and the 2011 Eastern Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association for helpful discussion.
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