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The Swinburne Regress and New Essentialism: Structure as Powerful Rather than Categorical

Ford, Sharon (2009). The Swinburne Regress and New Essentialism: Structure as Powerful Rather than Categorical. In: Australasian Association of Philosophy Annual Conference 2009, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 5-10 July 2009.

Document type: Conference Paper
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Author Ford, Sharon
Title The Swinburne Regress and New Essentialism: Structure as Powerful Rather than Categorical
Conference Name Australasian Association of Philosophy Annual Conference 2009
Conference Location University of Melbourne, Melbourne
Conference Dates 5-10 July 2009
Convener Australasian Association of Philosophy
Place of Publication Australia
Publisher Australasian Association of Philosophy
Publication Year 2009
Field of Research 220309 - Metaphysics
Abstract The New Essentialism advocated by Brian Ellis proposes that dispositional and categorical properties both exist at the fundamental level. The two are combined such that fundamental categorical properties—termed ‘categorical dimensions’ or ‘fundamental structural properties’—fulfil a causal role in constraining the effects of causal powers. In this paper I argue for why, at the fundamental level, these dimensions should, instead, be considered powerful. First, in terms of their identity, the causal role required of categorical dimensions is inseparable from what the dimensions are, weakening the claim for their being quiddistic. Second, the laws of action and reaction are descriptions or specifications of how the categorical dimensions change with respect to the causal processes, and these laws are deemed to be necessary. However, necessary laws that describe their relata seem to entail fundamental dispositionality in those relata. Third, Ellis’s assertion that structure is categorical is partly driven by the Swinburne Regress argument, which calls for the effects of causal processes to be directly observable at some point; and which claims that categorical properties are required for this to occur. However, as Ellis notes, categorical dimensions can only be observed in virtue of perceiving a pattern of distributed causal powers. This implies that categorical properties must be either perceived indirectly or inferred from the way things behave. Thus, arguments for fundamental structure given in terms of categorical properties fail to discharge the Swinburne Regress. Alternatively, contra the Swinburne Regress, a pure-power account may explain the manifestly qualitative world without resorting to fundamental categorical properties. I demonstrate this by describing a possible world in which, together with extra-dimensional topology, light-like processes are the sole fundamental entities. Both these fundamentals can be comfortably viewed as powerful rather than categorical, giving rise to the fermions of which the ostensibly qualitative world is built.
Keyword New Essentialism
Brian Ellis
Swinburne regress
dispositional properties
Additional Notes PowerPoint Presentation - 32 slides

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Created: Mon, 30 Jan 2017, 18:01:55 CST by Sharon Ford