Disambiguating anti-passivism, essentialism & necessitarianism

Here is a simple thought that I think is worth taking very seriously.

The following three things are different, one from another:

  • (1) powers;
  • (2) essences;
  • (3) causal necessitation.

Andrea comments below that he would add “dispositions” to the list.  I agree that an unexercised power is not the same as an exercised power.  I’m also willing to think that the very distinction between potentiality and actuality is not itself the same thing as a power-to-do — though what the distinction “is,” I’m not sure.

Still, I think I’d be more inclined to add “the very distinction between potentiality and actuality” to the list than to say that a disposition, in virtue of referring to an unexpressed power, is something different from a power.

Andrea?  Others?  I’ll respond in “Comments” from here on, if we want to have more discussion.

This entry was posted in About powers, Contemporary analytic metaphysics, Questions, thoughts, etc.. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Disambiguating anti-passivism, essentialism & necessitarianism

  1. I think there’s another difference worth including, which is not just conceptual but ontological, between powers and dispositions. I also would like to know more about the reason for differences between (1) and (3).

  2. rgroff2013 says:

    Hi Andrea! I responded to the first part of what you said, and added it into the post. I have to go teach now, but will reply to the second part as soon as I can!

  3. rgroff2013 says:

    Hi again Andrea. I guess re: (3) what I want to say is that the fact (if it is one; though I don’t mean “fact” in any super-technical sense) — the fact that a thing T (you know: T for “thing”) *can* do x doesn’t mean that it must or will do x. Nor does it mean that x-ing (i.e., the display of T’s power-to-x) will necessarily result in T’s having caused y. The necessitation thesis is something different than the thesis that things have powers.

    Of course, if one believes in essences and one believes that being able to x is an essential property of T, then by definition T will necessarily have the power to x. But this is just to reaffirm that being able to x is an essential property of T. It is not to say that the relationship between things and their own identities is one of causal necessitation.

    Have I made any clumsy mistakes?

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