Contrast to 20th-Century Friends of Powers

What this book doesn’t do, and which a complete discussion of the philosophy of powers should do, is to discuss the input of all those 20th-century thinkers that arguably kept powers ontology alive and which had a decisive influence on those who initiated the 21st-century realist revival. I am talking about philosophers like Roy Bhaskar (1975), Rom Harré

& E.H. Madden (1975), Sydney Shoemaker (1980), Dorothy Emmet (1985), Nancy Cartwright (1989), and Ingvar Johansson (1989/2004). I have mentioned some of them, and discussed some of their views to a certain degree, but not really given their views much space. This is the result of a conscious choice. An effort to simplify the discussion to some little degree, by focusing on 21st-century thinkers. However, it is appropriate to acknowledge their importance.

What I can add, by way of indicating some similarities and contrast, is that Shoemaker, and Cartwright tend to think of the role of powers in event-causal terms, i.e. in terms of Kim-style events constituted by powers, and their view of powers is pretty close to the standard view. In Bhaskar’s views I find more similarity than contrast to my own views, also with respect to his naturalism and how he relates to science, which is also a characteristic of Cartwright. Harré & Madden, Emmet and Johansson formulate themselves more in substance-causal terms, yet, like me, stress the processual nature of causation, and Johansson comes pretty close to the interaction view I develop here. That is no fluke. Johansson is probably the person whose works and 25 years of persona 1/professional communication have influenced me the most.

Concluding Remark

What I have so far said about alternative powers-based accounts really amounts to the following. Notably, that while proponents of powers-based accounts usually aim to explain causation rather than merely characterising it, I find that most of them don’t in the end fully reach that aim. But they all represent a step in the right direction. I believe my account has the advantage of providing a general model that very plausibly comes across as a generalisation from the theories and findings of the natural sciences, and therefore is a philosophical account that aligns well with the explanations the sciences already offer for a range of different phenomena. To show it to be wrong will involve arguing that, despite my claims to the contrary, it isn’t a good generalisation from the sciences. Alternatively, one will have to show that, even though my account works on the more fundamental levels on which we find particles, atoms, and chemical compounds, it doesn’t apply to the world of ordinary middle-sized dry goods, because objects on that level have emergent properties/ powers that allow unidirectional influence. I am ready to admit already now that I find intentional agency difficult to reconcile with a world in which all interactions are reciprocal. However, the solution to that problem will hinge on a better understanding of agency.

What I definitely think I have provided, never mind whether it is actually true or false, is a novel perspective on a very complicated issue.

I hope it will be received as just that; not as a claim to ultimate truth, but as an attempt to push the issue just a little bit further by providing a fresh, albeit provocative, perspective. I don’t believe in what appears to be a fashionable approach to metaphysics, namely to be reconciliatory and cater to what everyone can agree. If everyone agrees, despite differences, we have only decided on the minimal common denominator and are ready to address what really matters: which one is the true account?

 
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