Philosophy, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Synthese 144 (2005), pp. 305–308


Copyright © 2005 Springer. Used by permission.


The Conference on Dispositions and Laws of Nature was held at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in February 2003, and by all accounts was a great success. Upon seeing the program for the conference, John Symons of Synthese thought the papers would make an excellent special issue, and so here we are. Roughly speaking, dispositions are tendencies or powers—a fragile glass’s disposition to break when struck. Laws of nature, like Newton’s laws of motion, are commonly thought to be true generalizations that supports counterfactuals, play an important role in scientific explanation, and can be inductively confirmed by their instances. Dispositions and laws are components of different, perhaps competing, metaphysical views regarding the source of power and activity in the universe. Supposing that dispositions and laws of nature exist, in some sense, I see two basic options as to how they are related: 1. Laws give otherwise inert particulars their dispositions. 2. Particulars have certain dispositions, and general truths about these dispositions constitute the laws of nature.