Philosophy, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Erkenntnis (2018), doi 10.1007/s10670-018-9999-2


Copyright © 2018 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Used by permission.


In recent years, there have been several books written about dispositions. Barbara Vetter’s Potentiality: From Dispositions to Modality is another, but it is not just another. 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.’ According to Vetter, saying that something has a disposition, like fragility or flammability, is to say something about what it can do, such as break or burn. Dispositional concepts are members of a broader class of modal concepts, which also includes necessity, possibility, causation, laws, and essence. Vetter’s basic idea is that potentialities are fundamental, and other modal notions should be understood in terms of them. While she is not the first to suggest that modality can be grounded in dispositional properties, Vetter moves beyond the mere suggestion to present a detailed potentiality-based account of modality and provides arguments that it is extensionally correct, formally adequate, and semantically useful. Vetter spends relatively little time engaging with adversaries or critiquing alternatives, but instead focuses on clearly and methodically articulating her positive view.

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