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Powers


Stephen Mumford


Pages 442 - 444



Dispositions or powers are ascribed to objects, substances and persons. An object can be fragile, a substance soluble and a person moody. For much of the twentieth century, empiricist philosophers struggled to understand dispositions in terms of conditional relations between events rather than accepting dispositions as a class of properties in their own right (Ryle 1949). In recent years, however, realists about dispositions have offered an alternative to the empiricist event ontology in which powers can be basic and irreducible and can account for many other troublesome metaphysical phenomena such as causes, laws, modality and properties (Bird 2007, Molnar 2003 and Mumford 1998; 2004). Powers can be instantiated in everyday macroscopic objects, substances and persons but also in their component parts. It seems, therefore, that powers can stand in part-whole relations though it is not clear that these are the traditional part-whole relations of standard mereology.




1Department of Philosophy, Durham University!School of Economics and Business, Norwegian University of Life Sciences



1 Bird, A., (2007), Nature’s Metaphysics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2 Molnar, G., (2003), Powers, A Study in Metaphysics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

3 Mumford, S., (1998), Dispositions, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

4 Mumford, S., (2004), Laws in Nature, Abingdon: Routledge.

5 Mumford, S.; Anjum, R. L., (2011), Getting Causes from Powers, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

6 Ryle, G., (1949), The Concept of Mind, London: Hutchinson.

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