Finally a real post! Albeit actually just a question to the hive-mind. It’s this. It seems to me that anyone who wants to say, of either (putative) dispositional properties or (putative) categorical properties (“putative” so as not to assume anything about how many kinds of properties there are) — anyone who wants to say, of either, that putative properties of that kind don’t or couldn’t exist because they don’t meet a causal criterion for existence has to already be implicitly thinking of causation in productive, substance causal terms.
I mean, you certainly could run the test on a putative property type assuming some other account of causation, but it’s going to be a lot harder to say that a kind of property doesn’t exist in virtue of (its instances) flunking the test if you can’t say that flunking shows that (putative) properties of that kind don’t do anything. Nothing actually does anything, according to the passivist. And never coming first in a regular sequence, for instance, is significantly less telling against the existence of something than is never doing anything.
Plus, think of Alexander Bird’s current position: he doesn’t even think that there are causal relations at the fundamental level at which his so-called “potencies” exist! Not only are they not potent (activity being only a metaphor, he says), they exist only in an a-causal realm. Maybe you could get him out of it given that while they are not potent, and they exist only at a level at which causation does not obtain, they nevertheless (as he had it the last time I knew, at least) ground laws of nature.
But nothing hangs on the case of Alexander’s account in particular. Just pick your favorite Humean passivist (or Kantian, for that matter). I don’t think that you can use the causal criterion of existence to rule out the existence one or another of their purported property kinds; not without rejecting their own definition of “to cause,” I mean.
Interestingly, Roy Bhaskar, who appealed in A Realist Theory of Science (1975) to a causal criterion for the existence of powers took it as a given that this criterion would not be sanctioned by the Humean empiricists against whom he was arguing (though for him what was important about it was what it permitted, not what it ruled out, i.e., that it allows one to countenance the existence of non-observables).
Anyway, what am I missing? Show me how a passivist can point to a property playing no causal role to deny its existence! How they could do so and have it be compelling, that is.