Hic Rhodos, hic Salta
From Reductionist Semantics to a Realist Ontology of Forceful Dispositions
It is widely believed that at least two developments in the last third of the 20th century have given dispositionalism—the view that powers, capacities, potencies, etc. are irreducible real properties—new credibility: (i) the many counterexamples launched against reductive analyses of dispositional predicates in terms of counterfactual conditionals and (ii) a new anti-Humean faith in necessary connections in nature which, it is said, owes a lot to Kripke’s arguments surrounding metaphysical necessity.
I aim to show in this paper that necessity is, in fact, of little help for the dispositionalists. My argument makes use of one of the above mentioned counterexamples against Humean reduction: antidotes. Turning the tables, I ask how the dispositionalists themselves can deal with antidotes. The result will be to show that if the dispositionalists are to demystify antidote cases, they must make plausible a conceptualisation of dispositions that does not invoke any kind of necessity. I will cautiously suggest that the anti-Humean link dispositions bring to the world has to be thought of in terms of (Newtonian) forces.