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The Regress of Pure Powers Revisited

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Abstract

The paper aims to elucidate in better detail than before the dispute about whether or not dispositional monism—the view that all basic properties are pure powers—entails a vicious infinite regress. Particular focus is on Alexander Bird's and George Molnar's attempts to show that the arguments professing to demonstrate a vicious regress are inconclusive because they presuppose what they aim to prove, notably that powers are for their nature dependent on something else. I argue that Bird and Molnar are mistaken. It is true that dispositional monism is popularly assumed to characterize powers as dependent entities, but this is not what the arguments aim to prove. They merely aim to demonstrate that it would be absurd to assume that all properties are dependent in this way. Finally, it is argued that there is an unresolved tension in Bird's and Molnar's accounts of powers. They characterize them as being for their nature dependent on the manifestations that they are for, and yet ontologically independent of those same manifestations. Until that tension is resolved, their accounts are not equipped to remove the threat of vicious regress.

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