Jadavpur Journal of Philosophy: Volume 23 Number 1(English) 2013-14

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Item Code: NAH553
Publisher: Department of Philosophy Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 09756833
Pages: 176
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.8 inch x 6.5 inch
Weight 320 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

Jadavpur Journal of Philosophy is a refereed, bi-issue journal, in English (No.1) and Bengali (No.2) published annually by the Department of Philosophy, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. The journal volume in Bengali is titled Darsan Biksa. The journal is devoted to the publication of original scholarly papers in any branch of philosophy. Its objective is to encourage contributions from scholars, dealing with specific philosophical problems connected with their respective fields of specialization.


Dispositional terms like solubility, fragility, malleability and conductivity are frequently used in understanding the physical world. These dispositional terms, particularly in the discourse of science, appear to be just a manner of speaking and are mere "abstractions" to represent the behaviour of the things in certain circumstances and nothing more. However, in the way they are used, it also gives a sense that they are real things in the world. Are these dispositions actual and real properties or powers that reside in the things but do not manifest themselves? "Yes, they are" is a position taken by philosophers who are realists about dispositions. As against this the anti-realists, notably David Hume, Gilbert Ryle and Michael Dummett, contend that dispositional terms just represent or describe the behaviour of things in certain circumstances. Mellor (1974) attempts to raise the "status of dispositions" and considers them to be "real" properties. With scientific essentialism. gaining importance in recent years essentialists like Brian Ellis (2001) and Alexander Bird (2007) grant the status of properties to dispositions. Further, Molnar (2006), Heil (2005) and Martin (1994) treat dispositions as powers or capacities that a thing can possess. The realists come up with different arguments in favour of their position and attempt to establish that dispositions are real properties by refuting the anti-realist claims and accounts of dispositions. Much of the discussions and arguments in defence of such a position and refutation of anti-realist position are based on some assumptions that do not seem to be warranted. They also invoke certain interesting ideas that make the arguments look persuasive. In this paper I take up what appears to be strong arguments made in defence of the realist position by Mumford (1998), Molnar (2006) and Martin (1994).1 They make use of some interesting ideas and imagined cases that make their arguments look sound. The purpose of this paper is to critically discuss some of their arguments in the subsequent sections, particularly to get into some of the details of these underlying ideas, and attempt to bring certain issues to the fore that appear to have been glossed over in the use of these ideas. Thus, there is a need to recognize that the arguments presented by the realists in favour of the position that dispositions is real and their refutation of the anti- realist position is less than persuasive.

In the second section I begin with Mumford's discussion of dispositions as properties. Here I attempt to show how the ideas of causal relevance, explanation and functional characterization are brought together in a question begging way to show that dispositions are properties. However, such explanations invoking dispositions are generally not accepted as genuine explanations but instead are said to be virtus dormitiva explanations. If this is so, then it implies that Mumford's argument stands to lose much of its strength. Therefore, Mumford downplays the charge of virtus dormitiva explanation. I attempt to show how such a charge of virtus dormitiva type of explanation has been downplayed by Mumford. If the charge of the virtus dormitiva is one that cannot be brushed aside by downplaying it then one cannot talk of dispositions as the realists do, i.e. as actual unmanifest properties possessed by a thing that it can gain or lose in time, as any other property. As dispositions do not actually manifest themselves, it is explained or understood in terms of the conditional.

The third section discusses the unmanifest and actual nature of dispositions, examines Martin's arguments refuting the reductive analysis of dispositions in terms of strict conditionals and attempts to reveal the circularity inherent in Molnar's argument on the actuality of dispositions. Dispositions are generally understood in terms of conditionals and such conditionals are nothing but descriptions of what happens in certain circumstances. If this is so, then again, dispositions cannot be viewed as properties. Mumford, therefore, develops the idea of functional characterization by means of which he develops an interesting conceptual connection between dispositions and conditionals. The reason why he argues for such a conceptual connection is that he wants to refute the idea that dispositions are nothing more than descriptions of what happens in certain circumstances and thereby establish that dispositions have property status.

In the fourth section I present Mumford's idea of functional characterization and also allude to the similar views of Molnar. I argue that the very idea of functional characterization does not appear to be relevant in the understanding of dispositions.


1The Property Status of Dispositions: Is the Position Defensible?1
2Sankari Prasad Banerjee on Freedom: Some Reflection27
3Symbols and Change39
4Genesis of the Superman49
5In the Shadow of Death: Beyond Heidegger's Subjectivity61
6Are Persons Substances?: A Critique of Locke's Theory of Personal Identity73
7Kripkean Theory of Reference: A Cognitive Way89
8Anselm's Definition of God103
9Early Life of Scientific Theories: A Model-based Analysis127
10Discerning Pervasive Patterns in Indian and Western Aesthetics: With Special Reference to Anandavardhana, Abhinavagupta and Immanuel Kant141
Book Review167
List of Contributors171
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