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Anjum, Rani Lill, and Stephen Mumford. A Powerful Theory of Causation

2010, In Anna Marmodoro (ed.) The Metaphysics of Powers, Routledge (2010): 143-59.

Abstract: Hume thought that if you believed in powers, you believed in necessary connections in nature. He was then able to argue that there were none such because anything could follow anything else. But Hume wrong-footed his opponents. A power does not necessitate its manifestations: rather, it disposes towards them in a way that is less than necessary but more than purely contingent. In this paper a dispositional theory of causation is offered. Causes dispose towards their effects and often produce them. But a set of causes, even though they may succeed in producing an effect, cannot necessitate it since the effect could have been counteracted by some additional power. This would require a separation of our concepts of causal production and causal necessitation. The most conspicuous cases of causation are those where powers accumulate and pass a requisite threshold for an effect to occur. We develop a model for representing powers as constituent vectors within an n-dimensional quality space, where composition of causes appears as vector addition. Even our resultant vector, however, has to be understood as having dispositional force only. This model throws new light on causal modality and cases of prevention, causation by absence and probabilistic causation.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on metaphysics, philosophy of science, or any course in which philosophical accounts of causation are relevant. This paper has the benefit of being both clear and non-technical, and being quite cutting-edge. Suitable for undergraduates of all levels.

Chambers, Clare, and Phil Parvin. Teach Yourself Political Philosophy: A Complete Introduction

2012, Hodder & Stoughton

Publisher’s Note: Written by Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers, who are current political philosophy lecturers and leading researchers, Political Philosophy – The Essentials is designed to give you everything you need to succeed, all in one place. It covers the key areas that students are expected to be confident in, outlining the basics in clear jargon-free English, and then providing added-value features like summaries of key thinkers, and even lists of questions you might be asked in your seminar or exam. The book’s structure follows that of most university courses on political philosophy, by looking at the essential concepts within political philosophy (freedom, equality, power, democracy, rights, the state, political obligation), and then looking at the ways in which political philosophers have used these fundamental concepts in order to tackle a range of normative political questions such as whether the state has a responsibility to alleviate inequalities, and what interest liberal and democratic states should take in the cultural or religious beliefs of citizens.

Comment: 'Phil Parvin and Clare Chambers have produced a state of the art textbook, which provides students with a comprehensive and bang up-to-date introduction to contemporary political philosophy. Topics are introduced in a clear and eminently readable fashion, using accessible real world examples whilst drawing on sophisticated scholarly literature. There is no comparable book which covers such a wide range of topics in such a student-friendly manner.' (Dr Daniel Butt, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Bristol.) 'A lively, accessible and engaging read. Comprehensive and well organized, it provides an updated account of key concepts in contemporary political philosophy, and highlights their relevance to political life in the 21st century. A valuable book for anyone taking their first steps in the world of political philosophy, or anyone who seeks to understand the normative challenges faced by our society today.' (Dr Avia Pasternak, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Essex.) 'Written in a clear and accessible style, it is an engaging introduction for those who are new to political philosophy and wish to think through some of its most important questions. In addition to offering outlines of key arguments, each chapter also contains a summary of main concepts, self-test questions, a wonderful selection of quotations and some attention-grabbing 'nuggets'' (Dr Zosia Stemplowska, University Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Oxford)

Choi, Shungho, and Michael Fara. Dispositions

2012, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

Summary: This is a perfect overview article that serves as a general introduction to the topic of dispositions. It is composed of six sections that review the main philosophical approaches to the most important questions: Analysis of disposition ascription, the dispositional/categorical distinction, dispositions and categorical bases, the intrinsicness of dispositions and the causal efficacy of dispositions.

Comment: A very good overview paper to introduce undergraduate students to the topic of dispositions.

Root, Deborah, and . Fat-Eaters and Aesthetes: The Politics of Display

1996, in Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation, and the Commodification of Difference. USA: Westview Press.

Summary: Root employs Méxica mythology as a lens for revealing the consumptive, and even cannibalistic, character of power. In particular, she points to the way colonial power sets up Westerners as “experts” and arbiters of art and culture, presenting appreciation of culture as a pretext for violence and control.

Comment: This chapter serves as an introduction to Root's booklength study of these themes, so the presentation only gestures at these relationships and provides a brief selection of examples that illustrate them. However, if can be useful for raising initial questions about the relationships among power, art, and culture. It provides a counterpoint to a more sanguine perspective on cross-cultural appreciation expressed by Thomas Heyd in "Rock Art Aesthetics and Cultural Appropriation."