Potentiality : From Dispositions to Modality

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Individual objects have potentials: paper has the potential to burn, an acorn has the potential to turn into a tree, some people have the potential to run a mile in less than four minutes. Barbara Vetter provides a systematic investigation into the metaphysics of such potentials, and an account of metaphysical modality based on them.

In contemporary philosophy, potentials have been recognized mostly in the form of so-called dispositions: solubility, fragility, and so on. Vetter takes dispositions as her starting point, but argues for and develops a more comprehensive conception of potentiality. She shows how, with this more comprehensive conception, an account of metaphysical modality can be given that meets three crucial requirements: (1) Extensional correctness: providing the right truth-values for statements of
possibility and necessity; (2) formal adequacy: providing the right logic for metaphysical modality; and (3) semantic utility: providing a semantics that links ordinary modal language to the metaphysics of modality.

The resulting view of modality is a version of dispositionalism about modality: it takes modality to be a matter of the dispositions of individual objects (and, crucially, not of possible worlds). This approach has a long philosophical tradition going back to Aristotle, but has been largely neglected in contemporary philosophy. In recent years, it has become a live option again due to the rise of anti-Humean, powers-based metaphysics. The aim of Potentiality and Possibility is to
develop the dispositionalist view in a way that takes account of contemporary developments in metaphysics, logic, and semantics.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 348 pages
  • 158 x 234 x 19mm | 532g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0198825862
  • 9780198825869
  • 1,483,807

Table of contents

1: The Project
2: Dispositions: against the standard conception
3: Dispositions: an alternative conception
4: Varieties of potentiality
5: Formalizing potentiality
6: Possibility: metaphysics and semantics
7: Objections
A: Formal adequacy
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Review quote

Vetter's book stands out as an ambitious, original, and systematic attempt to develop a new account of metaphysical modality in terms of dispositional properties she calls 'potentialities.' * Jennifer McKitrick, University of Nebraska, Erkenn * Potentiality is an essential reference for scholars of disposition, potentiality, and possibility. It makes a significant contribution to the continued growth of anti-Humean metaphysics. * James M. Bucknell, Australasian Journal of Philosophy * I believe that Potentiality is a very important book that should be read by anyone who is interested in the metaphysics of modality in general and in dispositionalist approaches to modality in particular. * Gabriele Contessa, Mind *
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About Barbara Vetter

Barbara Vetter has a BPhil and a DPhil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford and is now a junior professor for theoretical philosophy at Humboldt-University, Berlin.
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Rating details

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