Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Molinism and behavioral dispositions

There is some sort of a link between counterfactuals and dispositions, though there are lots of counterexamples to direct links. Here is a very weak principle affirming such a link:

  1. Suppose that x is in state S at time t and that x’s being in S at t grounds x’s being disposed to behavior A after t. Then there is some maximally determinate categorical proposition p describing the world up to time t and logically compatible with x’s being in S at t such that it is false that were p true and x in state S, x would fail to engage in behavior A after t.

To put it very roughly, this messy principle says that if a disposition to a behavior is grounded in a state, then it’s not the case that no matter what one adds to the state, the behavior would not occur. Suppose that (1) is a necessary truth.

Add this:

  1. It is possible for a human being to have an unactualized indeterministic disposition with respect to non-derivatively free behavior.

For instance, there is presumably a shade R of red that Jean Vanier has never met someone wearing, and yet he is disposed to behave non-derivatively freely kindly to persons wearing R.

What I have said so far does not, however, cohere with Molinism. For on Molinism, the conditionals of free will logically float free from the indeterministic dispositions of things. There is, for instance, a possible world where Jean Vanier still has the same kindly dispositions that he does in the actual world, but where the Molinist conditionals say that in the case of any of the appropriate maximally deterministic categorical strengthenings of the claim that he meets a person wearing R, if that strengthening were actual, he would behave unkindly to that person. This would violate (1).

[Note added later: This was, of course, written before the revelations about Jean Vanier's abusiveness. I would certainly have chosen a different example if I were writing this post now.]

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