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The dispositional essentialist view of properties and laws*

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One view of the nature of properties has been crystallized in recent debate by an identity thesis proposed by Shoemaker. The general idea is that there is for behaviour. Well-known criticisms of this approach, however, remain unanswered, and the details of its connections to laws nothing more to being a particular causal property than conferring certain dispositions of nature and the precise ontology of causal properties stand in need of development. This paper examines and defends a dispositional essentialist account of causal properties, combining a Shoemaker-type identity thesis with a Dretske, Tooley, and Armstrong-type view that laws are relations between properties, and a realism about dispositions. The property identity thesis is defended against standard epistemological and metaphysical objections. The metaphysics of causal properties is then clarified by a consideration of the laws relating them, vacuous laws, and ceteris paribus law statements.
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Keywords: ceteris paribus laws; dispositions; essentialism; laws; properties; vacuous laws

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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