Mini-Workshop ‚Dispositions and Necessity‘

Cologne, 9 December 2011

Alexander Bird (Bristol), Elina Pechlivanidi (Bristol), Markus Schrenk and Andreas Hüttemann (Cologne) will hold a one-day-workshop on dispositions, necessity, and causation at the University of Cologne.

Presented papers:
Alexander Bird: “Time and Necessity”
Andreas Hüttemann: “Conditional Metaphysical Necessity”
Elina Pechlivanidi: “Interference and Metaphysical Necessity”
Markus Schrenk: “Necessity: A Red Herring for the Dispositionalist”


“Time and Necessity” (Bird)
Can a metaphysics of essentially dispositional properties (powers, potencies) provide an account of the necessity of laws and causation as metaphysical necessity? If it can then there will be some cross-temporal relations that are metaphysically necessary, for example between cause and effect. Markus Schrenk (‘The Powerlessness of Necessity’, Noûs 2010) uses this fact to argue that the dispositional essentialist position is in error. There is always the possibility of interference between cause and effect by antidotes (or masks) to prevent the effect from happening. And so the relationship between cause and effect when they do occur cannot be one of metaphysical necessity. In this paper I reject Schrenk’s argument. For example, Schrenk’s argument does not rule out the metaphysical necessitation of a later state of the universe by a total earlier state. I also argue that Schrenk’s argument depends on a view of time that holds that time and things persisting through time have genuine temporal parts. Schrenk’s view is less appealing on an endurantist conception of time. I relate these arguments to competing physical conceptions of time as either relational of substantival.

“Conditional Metaphysical Necessity” (Hüttemann)
In this paper I argue that a problem raised by Markus Schrenk (The Powerlessness of Necessity) for the dispositional essentialist can be solved by introducing the notion of conditional metaphysical necessity.  I will explicate the notion and show how it applies to the case of fundamental physical dispositions.

“Interference and Metaphysical Necessity” (Pechlivanidi)
The fact that a process connecting cause and effect can be interfered with, seems to provide a reason to think that causes and effects cannot be related by metaphysical necessity (cf. Schrenk: ‘The Powerlessness of Necessity’, Mumford & Anjum ‘A Powerful Theory of Causation’). In the case of dispositions the possibility of interference has given rise to counterexamples (e.g. antidotes and masks) to the conditional analysis of dispositional predicates. In this paper I first argue that the possibility of interference does not provide a compelling reason to think that the conditional analysis is flawed. Then I show how my arguments can be applied to the case of causation. If I am correct, then the inference from the possibility of interference to the claim that causes do not necessitate their effects is problematic.

“Necessity: A Red Herring for the Dispositionalist” (Schrenk)
I turn the necessitarians’ arguments on their head: It is true, you can rescue (metaphysical) necessity. Yet, you thereby define what it, i.e. de re necessity, is on the basis of non-necessitating links in nature (rather than the other way round).
To support my argument further, I question the reliability of the orthodox source of the concept of metaphysical necessity and I unearth a more credible root for the postulation of de re connections.