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– Relational Troubles: Structuralist Worries for an Epistemology of Powers-Based Modality, co-authored with Tom Schoonen. (Philosophical Quarterly, forthcoming)
Abstract: Dispositionalism is the theory of modality that grounds all modal truths in powers: all metaphysically possible and necessary truths are to be explained by pointing to some actual power, or absence thereof. One of the main reasons to endorse dispositionalism is that it promises to deliver an especially desirable epistemology of modality.
However, so far this issues has not be fully investigated with the care it is due. The aim of this paper is to fill this gap. We will cast some doubts on whether the dispositionalist really is in a better position to explain our modal knowledge. In fact, we argue that there is a tension between some core tenets of a powers metaphysics and the very features that make dispositionalism the ideal backdrop for a desirable epistemology of modality. We conclude that this leaves dispositionalists who want to deliver the promised epistemology with a hard, currently unfulfilled, task.
– Dispositionalism’s (grand)daddy issues: time travelling and perfect masks, co-authored with Donatella Donati (Analysis, forthcoming)
Abstract: There is a tension between Dispositionalism –– the view that all metaphysical modality is grounded in actual irreducible dispositional properties –– and the possibility of time travel. This is due to the fact that Dispositionalism makes it much harder to solve a potentiality-based version of the grandfather paradox. We first present a potentiality-based version of the grandfather paradox, stating that the following theses are inconsistent: 1) time travel is possible, 2) powers fully ground modality, 3) self-defeating actions are impossible, 4) time-travellers retain their intrinsic powers upon time-travelling, and 5) time-travellers are ordinary agents with basic intrinsic potentialities. We then consider a number of potential solutions, and find them wanting. We argue that the metaphysical impossibility of performing a self-defeating action acts as a necessary perfect mask –– while time-travel lets us “slip” the potentiality under the mask, thus generating the contradiction. We conclude considering what are the options for the dispositionalist
– New Powers for Dispositionalism (Synthese,2022).
Abstract: Dispositionalism is the theory of modality according to which alethic modal truths are grounded in actual powers. The viability of the theory partially depends on the underlying metaphysics of powers of choice: some theories of powers offer more resources than others to the projects, and misunderstanding concerning the nature of powers can have repercussions for Dispositionalism. A well-known tension between two core principles of powers ontologies, Directedness and Independence, (known as Too Much Possibility) concerning the status of unmanifested manifestations, has not received a satisfactory solution yet, and this results in a deficit in the expressive power and a threat to extensional correctness when it comes to handling de re truths about mere possibilia, as recently highlighted by Jessica Leech. I examine the two standard solutions to this tension and find them wanting. I develop a new solution to Too Much Possibility and a better characterisation of unmanifested manifestations, one that allows particulars to be unmanifested manifestations and offers Dispositionalism the resources for handling mere possiblia. The central idea of the proposal is unmanifested manifestations are best characterised in a manner somewhat akin (with some significant tweaks involving primitive essences) to mere logical existents.
– Powers, Processes, and Time (Erkenntis, 2021)
Abstract: In this paper I argue that even the most radical metaphysics of powers (such as that adopted by Mumford & Anjum, Cartwright, or Groff) are compatible with eternalism. I first offer a taxonomy of powers ontologies, and attempt to characterise the difference between moderate and radical powers ontologies – the latter are characterised by an emphasis on production and dynamicity. I consider an argument by C. Friebe to the effect that the productive character of powers is inconsistent with Eternalism and find it wanting. I then elucidate the notion of dynamicity that radical powers theorists employ by making apparent their link with an ontology of irreducible processes. Finally, I respond to an argument by Donatella Donati to the effect that eternalism entails a reductive account of change which is inconsistent with process ontologies, and show that the the two are compatible. I conclude that we have no reason to think that radical powers metaphysics (and, a fortiori, every powers ontology) are not compatible with eternalism.
– Potentiality: Actualism minus Naturalism Equals Platonism (with Matthew Tugby). Philosophical Inquiries 8, 2020.
Abstract: Vetter (2015) develops a localised theory of modality, based on potentialities of actual objects. Two factors play a key role in its appeal: its commitment to Hardcore Actualism, and to Naturalism. Vetter’s commitment to Naturalism is in part manifested in her adoption of Aristotelian universals. In this paper, we argue that a puzzle concerning the identity of unmanifested potentialities cannot be solved with an Aristotelian conception of properties. After introducing the puzzle, we examine Vetter’s attempt at amending the Aristotelian conception in a way that avoids the puzzle, and conclude that this amended version is no longer to be considered naturalistic. Potentiality theory cannot be both actualist and naturalist. We then argue that, if naturalism is to be abandoned by the actualist, there are good reasons to adopt a Platonist conception of universals, for they offer a number of theoretical advantages and allow us to avoid some of the problems facing Vetter’s theory.
– Formal Causes for Powers (with Stephen Mumford). 2021 in Sandstad & Jansen (eds.) Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Formal Causation, Routledge.
Abstract: In this paper we examine whether and how powers ontologies can back formal causation. We answer three questions: i) what is formal causation; ii) whether do we need formal causation, and iii) whether formal causation need powers and whether it can be grounded in powers. We take formal causal explanations to be explanations in which something's essence features prominently in the explanans. We distinguish three kinds of essential explanations: constitutive, consequential, and those singling out something's propria. This last kind of explanation has been somewhat overlooked in the literature, but we think it features in much of the most relevant uses of formal explanations in philosophy and science. These are the explanations for why an object has certain propertis that are not, properly speaking, parts of its essence, but that belong to it more intimately than just being part of its consequential essence: they are the properties that "flow" from something's essence. We argue that a powers metaphysics is uniquely placed to make sense of this last phenomenon. We then distinguish three grades of involvement in which powers might be salient for formal causal explanations: i) powers might be the subject matter of the essence operator, ii) the essence of something might include (or be exhausted) by powers, or iii) powers can explain how propria can flow from something's constitutive existence.
Work In Progress
– A paper on the relationship between powers and time, with Donatella Donati (L'Aquila)
– A paper on essential dependence and fundamentality, with Michael Wallner (Graz)
– A paper on degrees of powers