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Vetter, Barbara, , . Dispositional Essentialism and the Laws of Nature
2012, In Alexander Bird, Brian Ellis & Howard Sankey (eds.), Properties, Powers, and Structures. Issues in the Metaphysics of Realism. Routledge.
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Summary: In this paper, Vetter looks at the argument for Dispositional Essentialism (DE) that has been put forward by A. Bird in his recent book Nature’s Metaphysics. Bird’s overall argument comes in two parts, one negative and one positive, which together are to establish DE as the best contender for a theory of properties and laws. Vetter argues that, even if all their particular steps go through, both parts of the argument have significant gaps. The negative argument, if successful, shows that at least one property has an essence, but not that any property has a dispositional essence. The positive argument, which aims to demonstrate the explanatory power of DE, fails to take account of the quantitative nature of the fundamental natural properties and laws. The paper finishes by suggesting a revision of DE’s doctrine that might solve the latter problem, but yet remains to be spelled out.

Comment: This paper explores in detail the metaphysics of dispositions. It is a good secondary reading for those who have already read Armstrong or Alexander Bird. Vetter writes in a very clear way, but a basic background in metaphysics might be needed to fully understand the paper. This reading is then more suitable for postgraduate courses in metaphysics or philosophy of science.

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