# Dispositions, Conditionals, and Auspicious Circumstances Justin C. Fisher University of Arizona – Dept of Philosophy April 30, 2005.

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Dispositions, Conditionals, and Auspicious Circumstances Justin C. Fisher University of Arizona – Dept of Philosophy April 30, 2005

Question #1. What is the relationship between dispositions and subjunctive conditionals? X is disposed to produce R in response to stimulus S. If X were given S, then X would produce R. ?

Question #1. What is the relationship between dispositions and subjunctive conditionals? X is disposed to produce R in response to stimulus S. If X were given S, then X would produce R. Simple Conditional Analysis Blocking Mimicking

If X were given S, then X would produce R. Question #1. What is the relationship between dispositions and subjunctive conditionals? X is disposed to produce R in response to stimulus S. If X were given S ________________________, then X would produce R. Revised Conditional Analysis Blocking Mimicking in an auspicious circumstance

Question #2. How may different dispositions be individuated? I.e., what must be specified in order to specify a particular disposition? –Type of stimulus S –Type of response R –Auspicious circumstances AC Two-parameter views Three-parameter views

Relation to Question #1. Two-Parameter views hold that, S, R, and facts about X would be enough to determine the AC’s that would be auspicious for X’s producing R if given S. Three-Parameter views holds that such AC’s are already given in a full specification of a disposition. –Type of stimulus S –Type of response R –Auspicious circumstances AC Two-parameter views Three-parameter views

In Favor of Two Parameter Views? We commonly specify a disposition by explicitly specifying only its S and R. Parsimony (?) But… no two parameter view will work. –Type of stimulus S –Type of response R –Auspicious circumstances AC Two-parameter views Three-parameter views

My Plan Look briefly at existing two-parameter views, and several cases that pose problems for them. Give a general argument for why all two- parameter views must fail. Sketch the three-parameter view that I favor. Explain how it allows for a satisfying conditional analysis of dispositions.

Existing Two-Parameter Proposals Lewis: AC’s are ones in which X will retain some relevant intrinsic property until the time of R. Mumford considers: AC’s are ones which are ideal for X’s producing R in response to S. Fara: AC’s are the ones that are typical of X being given S.

Problem Case #1. Metamorphoses. Lewis: AC’s are ones in which X will retain some relevant intrinsic property until the time of R.

Problem Case #2. Context Dependence. Ordinarily we say the goblet is disposed to break (not thud) if struck. But after some time with the wizard we might say otherwise.

Problem Case #3. Non-Finkish Blocking. Lewis: AC’s are ones in which X will retain some relevant intrinsic property until the time of R. Antidote SYRUP

Problem Case #4. Atypicality. Fara: AC’s are the ones that are typical of X being given S. –My alarm is disposed to go off in response to the window breaking. (Try it and see!) –But my alarm does not typically (or ‘habitually’) go off when the window is broken, because typically it is broken by a burglar who cuts the power first.

Problem Case #4. Atypicality. Fara: AC’s are the ones that are typical of X being given S. –My alarm is disposed to go off in response to the window breaking. (Try it and see!) –But my alarm does not typically (or ‘habitually’) go off when the window is broken, because typically it is broken by burglars who cut the power first.

The Need for a Third Parameter That vase is disposed to break if struck! It’s good that I’ve protected it. This vase is not disposed to break if struck – I’ve tried !

Talking about different dispositions. Same S (Striking) Same R (Breaking) So some third parameter must differ. It is disposed to break if struck! It’s not disposed to break if struck!

Auspicious Circumstances as the Third Parameter A technically complete disposition-ascription should take the following form (with braces used to indicate the distinct parameters): Thing X is disposed to give a response of {type R} in response to a stimulus of {type S} in circumstances of {type AC}.

But aren’t there two alternatives? –My proposal: Thing X is disposed to {R} in response to {S} in {AC}. –Alternative #1: Thing X is disposed to {R} in response to {S and AC}. –Alternative #2: Thing X is disposed to {R if AC} in response to {S}.

But aren’t there two alternatives? These alternatives and my proposal agree on what is important: –To specify a disposition, we must somehow specify AC –Our specifications of AC’s are often less explicit than specifications of S or R. Theoretically preferable to keep independent factors on the same footing. Intuitive argument.

Alternative #1: Thing X is disposed to {R} in response to {S and AC}. Yessirree! Uh… yeah. Is the disposition you have in mind a disposition to respond to a stimulus like _____?

Alternative #2: Thing X is disposed to {R if AC} in response to {S}. Sure thing! Yep. Is the disposition you have in mind a disposition to produce a response like ______?

My Proposal: Thing X is disposed to {R} in response to {S} in {AC}. Should the disposition you have in mind become manifest when the vase is encased in foam? No, it shouldn’t. That’s why I put the foam on it! Yeah it should. That’s why I’m sure the vase doesn’t have it.

A New Conditional Analysis. X is disposed to produce a response of type R to stimulus of type S. If any intrinsic duplicate of X were exposed to a stimulus of type S in a circumstance of type AC, then it would produce a response of type R. in a circumstance of type AC

Does this analysis work too well? It is suspiciously easy for me to manufacture an explanation for anyone’s willingness (or unwillingness) to infer a conditional from a disposition: they did (or didn’t) take conditions to be auspicious. Fortunately, we may seek converging evidence to confirm that these explanations do match the AC’s that people (usually quite tacitly) have in mind.

Conclusions. Dispositions are individuated not just on the basis of R and S, but also on the basis of their AC’s. This accomodates cases where people (like the packer and vandal) have in mind different dispositions with the same S and R. It also enables a robust analysis of the link between dispositions and subjunctive conditionals. And it gives satisfying answers in cases where other accounts have failed.

The End

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