Metaphysics (PHIL 830): Dispositions

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Instructor: Marc Lange. The seminar meets on Thursdays from 1:00-3:30.

Dispositions and their Allies

This seminar will concern a variety of issues connected in some way to dispositions. In the first part of the course, I will try to march us through the relation between dispositions and conditionals, the view that dispositions are impotent to cause their manifestations, various arguments against the possibility of bare fundamental powers, various arguments against fundamental categorical properties (from epistemology, semantics, modality, natural law, and the spectres of quidditism and humility), and structural realism. Part of my reason for teaching this course is to have an excuse to learn more about this literature. Readings will be drawn from Armstrong, Bird, Blackburn, English, Foster, Holton, Jackson, Langton, D. Lewis, Martin, Mellor, Mumford, Newman, Pargetter, Poincare, E. Prior, Robinson, Russell, Shoemaker, M. Smith, Swinburne,  Swoyer, and Worrall. This should give us a synoptic view. In the second part of the course, you will select papers from the enormous literature on these topics for us all to read together; you will be responsible for presenting your selection to the class and for leading discussion on it. (There may be an opportunity for you to present your own work in progress as well.) Topics to be discussed in the second part will depend, of course, on the interests of the class.

The requirements for the course are one term paper and one (or more) class presentations (depending on the time available to us).

The default distribution area for the course is “metaphysics and epistemology”. However, you can petition GradCom to count this course toward the “logic and philosophy of science” requirement. The success of the petition will depend partly on the other courses that you have taken and the topics of your proposed paper and presentation. I will be happy to help make this work.

Marc Lange’s webpage