Colloquium: Barbara Vetter, Freie Universität Berli
"Essence, Potentiality, and Modality"
Abstract: According to essentialism, metaphysical modality is founded in the essences of things, where the essence of a thing is roughly akin to its real definition. According to potentialism (also known as dispositionalism), metaphysical modality is founded in the potentialities of things, where a potentiality is roughly the generalized notion of a disposition. Essentialism and potentialism have much in common, but little has been written about their relation to each other. The aim of my talk is to better understand the relations between essence and potentiality, on the one hand, and between essentialism and potentialism, on the other. It is argued, first, that essence and potentiality are not duals but interestingly linked by a weaker relation dubbed ‘semi-duality’; second, that given this weaker relation, essentialism and potentialism are not natural allies but rather natural competitors; and third, that the semi-duality of essence and potentiality allows the potentialist to respond to an important explanatory challenge by using essentialist resources without thereby committing to essentialism.
Colloquium: Jake Nebel, USC
"The Case for Comparability" (with Cian Dorr and Jake Zuehl)
Abstract: We argue that all comparative expressions in natural language obey a principle that we call Comparability: if x and y are both F to some degree, then either x is at least as F as y or y is at least as F as x. This principle has been widely rejected among philosophers, especially by ethicists, and its falsity has been claimed to have important normative implications. We argue that Comparability is needed to explain the goodness of several patterns of inference that seem manifestly valid. We reply to some influential arguments against Comparability, and raise and reject some new arguments.