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Dispositional Essentialism and Ontic Structural Realism - a hybrid view

Dispositional Essentialism and Ontic Structural Realism - a hybrid view.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Dispositional Essentialism and Ontic Structural Realism aim to account for modality. Dispositional Essentialism takes properties to account for laws. In particular, it takes determinate properties to account for laws of nature (Bird, 2007), which are determinable. Ontic Structural Realism does the reverse. According to Steven French, Ontic Structural Realism takes laws and symmetries to be part of the fundamental structure of the world. Determinate properties are “dependent” on laws (2014, p. 264).
The core difference between Dispositional Essentialism and Ontic Structural Realism’s accounts of modality is the direction of the dependence between properties and laws. As a result, French describes Ontic Structural Realism as a reverse-engineering of Dispositional Essentialism (2014, p. 264), and Chakravartty differentiates them by saying that Dispositional Essentialism gives a bottom-up account of modality whereas Ontic Structural Realism’s is top-down (2019). Both views face significant problems.
The main problems these views face stem from relational individuation. Properties are individuated by their relations to further properties. As such, it is hard to see how they can be metaphysically prior to those relations as per Dispositional Essentialism. Equally, laws are relations between properties. As such, it is hard to see how they could be metaphysically prior to the properties they relate as per Ontic Structural Realism. Both properties and laws seem dependent on each other. By requiring one to come first and explain the other, dispositional essentialists and ontic structural realists end up in a chicken-egg scenario.
I propose a hybrid between Dispositional Essentialism and Ontic Structural Realism. My hybrid view does away with the dogma of ontological priority between properties and laws. Instead, properties and laws symmetrically depend. I argue that my hybrid view is the way out of the chicken-egg-property-law conundrum. It paves a new way for making sense of modality from a structuralist perspective.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:metaphysics, philosophy of science, ontic structural realism, dispositional essentialism, properties, powers, laws
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:23 Nov 2020 09:52

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