## Friday, July 31, 2009

### Dispositions and Interferences (Part II)

In Part I of this post, I suggested that the simple counterfactual analysis of disposition (SCA) may be saved from the usual counterexamples by introducing clauses to the effect that nothing interferes with o's disposition to M (or not M) when S.

More specifically, the "intereference free" counterfactual analysis (IFCA) would maintain that:

(IFCA) o is disposed to M when S iff:
1. (If it were the case that S, o would M AND it is not the case that something interferes with o's not being disposed to M when S) OR
2. Something interferes with o's being disposed to M when S.

As I noted, this analysis would be circular unless one were able to provide an analysis of 'x interferes with o's disposition (not) to M when S' without employing the notion of disposition.
This is my a first stab at doing so. (be warned that it's more than a bit convoluted)

(Interference)
--> For all ks, Ik interferes with o's being disposed to M when S iff:
1. It is the case that I1 and … and Ik and … and In,
2. For each j, if it were the case that not (I1 or … or I(j–1) or I(j+1) or … or  In), then it would not be the case that, if it were that S, then o would M.
3. There is some property G such that o has G and if it were the case that not-(I1 or … or In), then it would be the case that: (3.1.) if it were the case that S and o retained G, o would M, and (3.2.) it is not the case that, if it were the case that not-S, then it would be the case that M and (3.3.) it is not the case that, if it were the case that S and O did not retain G, then o would M.
4. There is no property H such that it is not the case that o has H, and, if it were the case that not-(I1 or … or In), then o would have H and, if o didn’t have H, then it would not be the case that, if it were that S, o would M.

As far as I can see, this can deal with all the usual counterexamples to (SCA). For example, there being an (inverse) fink attached to this live wire comes out as interfering with the wire's disposition to conduct electricity when touched by a conductor (had the fink not been there, the wire would have conducted electricity when touched by a conductor) and there being a chalice-hating wizard interferes with the chalice's disposition not to break when touched (because had there been no wizard, the chalice would not have broken when touched).

(Question A) Am I wrong in thinking that IFCA avoids the standard counterexamples to SCA?
(Question B) Can anyone think of any new counterexamples lurking in the background? (My spidey senses tell me that there is a whole battery of them just waiting to be thought of... :-))

One last thing: I am assuming that properties are sparse. So, in (IFCA 4.), H cannot be something along the lines of being such that no chalice-hating wizard is around or the likes, for I take there is no such property to be had. However, H can be something along the lines of being made of glass (So that the fact that, for example, the live wire is not made of glass does not come out as interfering with its disposition to conduct electricity when touched by a conductor).

## Tuesday, July 28, 2009

### Postdoc: Philosophy of Physics/Metaphysics at Monash University

This may be of interest to some readers:
The School of Philosophy and Bioethics at Monash University invites applications for a one year postdoctoral fellowship (Level B, salary AUD79,269) to commence sometime between February and September 2010. The fellow will be employed to contribute to a research project relating to the metaphysics and physics of time, however there is considerable scope for latitude in the research to be pursued. Applicants are required to have a Ph.D. by the date of commencement, and to have expertise in philosophy of physics and/or metaphysics of time. Expertise in general relativity and recent work on quantum gravity may be an advantage. Enquiries graham.oppy@arts.monash.edu.au.

Applicants should send an application letter and CV to Sandra Bolton, School of Philosophy and Bioethics, Monash University, Victoria 3800 or electronically (preferred) to sandra.bolton@arts.monash.edu.au by Friday 23 October.

## Friday, July 24, 2009

### Conference: Fictionalism (Manchester, 15-17 September 2009)

This sounds like it's going to be a very interesting conference:

FICTIONALISM
15-17 September 2009
Chancellors Hotel and Conference Centre, University of Manchester

Stephen Yablo (MIT) Hyperbolic Geometry
Paul Horwich (NYU) The Fiction of Fictionalism
Mark Balaguer (California State, Los Angeles) (title TBA)
Jonas Olson (Stockholm) Getting Real about Moral Fictionalism
John Divers (Leeds) If You Don't Succeed, At Least Pretend To: The Explanatory Poverty of Modal Fictionalisms
Mary Leng (Liverpool) Mathematical Fictionalism and Constructive Empiricism
Daniel Nolan (Nottingham) There's No Justice: Ontological Moral Fictionalism
Anthony Everett (Bristol) Meinongian Fictionalism Reconsidered
Jussi Suikkanen (Reading) Saving the Moral Fiction: The Content Challenge
Antony Eagle (Oxford) Another Go at Modal Fictionalism
Robbie Williams (Leeds) Fictionalism about Reference: The Metaphysics of Radical Interpretation

Registration is now open. You can register via the conference website: http://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/disciplines/philosophy/events/fictionalism/
Registration will close on 28 August.
Organizers: Chris Daly and David Liggins (University of Manchester)
Email: fictionalism@manchester.ac.uk
The organizers gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Aristotelian Society, the Mind Association, the Royal Institute of Philosophy, the Analysis Trust, and the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester.

## Tuesday, July 21, 2009

### Dispositions and Interferences (Part I)

According to the naive counterfactual analysis of dispositions (NCA), o is disposed to M when S if and only if, if it were the case that S, o would M. Unfortunately, NCA is too nice and simple to be true and counterexamples to both sides of the biconditional abound. These include (on the "if" side) finks (the device that would turn a dead wire into a live one if it were to be touched by a conductor) and masks (the carefully wrapped but nonetheless fragile Ming vase) and (on the "only if" side) mimicks (the golden chalice hated by a wizard who would destroy it, if something where to touch it).

As a result of these counterexamples, some have abandoned NCA in favour of some different analysis, others have tried to fix it. Both projects, however, have proved to be quite tricky. Nevertheless, I still hope NCA can be fixed (it's too nice to give it up). The idea I'm exploring right now is that there is a common theme to all counterexamples to NCA. In all of them something is interfering with o's disposition to M when S. So, to avoid the counterexamples NCA should be fixed by adding 'unless something interferes with o's disposition to M when S'. Now, of course, this cannot be the whole story unless we are also able to give an analysis of 'something interferes with o's disposition to M when S' without mentioning 'o's disposition to M when S' otherwise our analysis would simply be circular (and this is far from being an easy task but I'll leave my suggestion for doing so for future post).

Now, the problem is that, as far as I can see, this general strategy seems to be quite obvious and yet, to my knowledge, no one has tried to pursue it so far. So, am I missing something? Have there been any attempts to pursue this general strategy I don't know of? And, if not, is this due to the fact that there is something clearly wrong with it (or is just due to the difficulty of analyzing the concept of interference in non-dispositional terms)? (One thing that could seem to be wrong is that in the case of mimicks there would seem to be no disposition to interfere with (and that is exactly the problem). However, I think this problem can be dealt with by claiming that there is, in fact, a disposition that is being interefered with--i.e. the chalyce's sturdiness. And that if nothing was interfering with that disposition the chalice would not appear to be fragile.)