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A disposition is a quality of character, a habit, a preparation, a state of readiness, or a tendency to act in a specified way that may be learned.


The terms dispositional belief and occurrent belief refer, in the former case, to a belief that is held in the mind but not currently being considered, and in the latter case, to a belief that is currently being considered by the mind.

Belief Psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true

Belief is the state of mind in which a person thinks something to be the case regardless of empirical evidence to prove that something is the case with factual certainty. Another way of defining belief sees it as a mental representation of an attitude positively oriented towards the likelihood of something being true. In the context of Ancient Greek thought, two related concepts were identified with regards to the concept of belief: pistis and doxa. Simplified, we may say that pistis refers to "trust" and "confidence", while doxa refers to "opinion" and "acceptance". The English word "orthodoxy" derives from doxa. Jonathan Leicester suggests that belief has the purpose of guiding action rather than indicating truth.

Mind combination of cognitive faculties that provides consciousness, thinking, reasoning, perception, and judgement in humans and potentially other life forms

The mind is a set of cognitive faculties including consciousness, imagination, perception, thinking, judgement, language and memory. It is usually defined as the faculty of an entity's thoughts and consciousness. It holds the power of imagination, recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in attitudes and actions.

In Bourdieu's theory of fields, dispositions are the natural tendencies of each individual to take on a specific position in any field. There is no strict determinism through one's dispositions. The habitus is the choice of positions according to one's dispositions. However, in retrospect a space of possibles can always be observed.

A disposition is not a process or event in some duration in time, but rather the state, preparation, or tendency of a structure "in waiting". In the field of possibilities its actual triggering has a statistical value.

In metaphysics

The debate about dispositions in metaphysics attempts to understand the fundamental nature of properties, including how they relate to laws of nature. [1] The initial question asks if dispositions are real. Realism about dispositions, or dispositionalism, argues that dispositions are causally efficacious properties inherent to objects that are sufficient to produce change. Consider fragility. If a glass is suitably struck, it will break. Fragility is a property of the glass that accounts for this breaking. Paradigmatic examples of dispositional properties include fragility, solubility, and flammability. Dispositionalism maintains that even paradigmatic examples of what appears to be qualitative such as squareness has causal powers (for instance - when combined with the property of hardness - to make a square impression in soft wax). [2] This view is historically argued for by Aristotle and Leibniz. Contemporary proponents include Sydney Shoemaker, U.T Place, Stephen Mumford, Alexander Bird, George Molnar, Brian Ellis. [3]

Metaphysics branch of philosophy

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among the [study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics.

Aristotle philosopher in ancient Greece

Aristotle was a philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, the founder of the Lyceum and the Peripatetic school of philosophy and Aristotelian tradition. Along with his teacher Plato, he is considered the "Father of Western Philosophy". His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz German mathematician and philosopher

Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz was a prominent German polymath and philosopher in the history of mathematics and the history of philosophy. His most notable accomplishment was conceiving the ideas of differential and integral calculus, independently of Isaac Newton's contemporaneous developments. Mathematical works have always favored Leibniz's notation as the conventional expression of calculus, while Newton's notation became unused. It was only in the 20th century that Leibniz's law of continuity and transcendental law of homogeneity found mathematical implementation. He became one of the most prolific inventors in the field of mechanical calculators. While working on adding automatic multiplication and division to Pascal's calculator, he was the first to describe a pinwheel calculator in 1685 and invented the Leibniz wheel, used in the arithmometer, the first mass-produced mechanical calculator. He also refined the binary number system, which is the foundation of all digital computers.

Others answer that dispositions are not real properties. Anti-realism about dispositions, or categoricalism, argues that dispositions are ontologically derivative of the interaction categorical (or qualitative) properties and laws. Accordingly calling a glass fragile, is useful shorthand for describing the potential interactions of its microstructure (a categorical property) and the laws of nature; dispositions are not additional elements of being. [4] Since the microstructure and laws are enough to explain fragility, there is no causal role for a dispositional property, here fragility, to play. This view is historically argued for by Descartes, Boyle, Hume and the logical positivists. Contemporary proponents, including David Lewis, David Malet Armstrong, and Jonathan Schaffer, continue in a neo-Humaen, empiricist tradition that argues for categoricalism on the assumption that there are no necessary connections between distinct existences. [5]

In analytic philosophy, anti-realism is an epistemological position first articulated by British philosopher Michael Dummett. The term was coined as an argument against a form of realism Dummett saw as 'colorless reductionism'.

René Descartes 17th-century French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist

René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. A native of the Kingdom of France, he spent about 20 years (1629–1649) of his life in the Dutch Republic after serving for a while in the Dutch States Army of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. He is generally considered one of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age.

Robert Boyle Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor

Robert Boyle was an Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor. Boyle is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry, and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method. He is best known for Boyle's law, which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system. Among his works, The Sceptical Chymist is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry. He was a devout and pious Anglican and is noted for his writings in theology.

Middle ground views are possible. The most notable is the Limit (or Identity) View defended by Charles B. Martin and John Heil. According to this view, dispositional and categorical - or as Martin prefers: "qualitative," because categorical seems to be misleading - predicates are different ways of identifying one and the same property.[6] Additionally, the properties lies on a spectrum in which it could approach either limit; however, it can never reach either end because those concepts are unrealisable. Ontologically, however, there is no real difference between the two. Fragility, for example, is both a real disposition of glass to break upon being struck and an abstraction from the underlying molecular structure. Squareness, to take another example, is both a quality of having four sides of equal length that meet at equal angles and an abstraction from the fact this property interacts with its environment to leave square impressions on soft wax (when combined with the property ‘hardness’). [6]

Charles B. Martin (1924–2008) was an Australian philosopher noted for work in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind.

John Heil is an American philosopher. He is a professor of Philosophy at the Washington University in St Louis, and a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow. He is the author of several books.

In law

In law, a disposition is a civil or criminal hearing where a case can be resolved.

In educational research

In educational research, a learning disposition are characteristics or attitudes to learning. These may be learned. Some examples are taking responsibility, grit and persistence when faced with problems.

In religion

In the Catholic Church

In Catholic thought, "disposition" has two meanings. Firstly, it may refer to a deliberately practised habit of behaving in a certain way, for example, "a virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good." [7] Secondly, it may refer to a state of a person that is required for reception of a sacrament, for example, a disposition of genuine repentance is required for the forgiveness of sins in confession. [8]

In the Anglican Communion

See also

Related Research Articles

In metaphysics, nominalism is a philosophical view which denies the existence of universals and abstract objects, but affirms the existence of general or abstract terms and predicates. There are at least two main versions of nominalism. One version denies the existence of universals – things that can be instantiated or exemplified by many particular things. The other version specifically denies the existence of abstract objects – objects that do not exist in space and time.

Ontology study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations

Ontology is the philosophical study of being. More broadly, it studies concepts that directly relate to being, in particular becoming, existence, reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

Process philosophy — also ontology of becoming, processism, or philosophy of organism — identifies metaphysical reality with change. In opposition to the classical model of change as illusory or accidental, process philosophy regards change as the cornerstone of reality—the cornerstone of being thought of as becoming.

Reductionism Philosophical view explaining systems in terms of smaller parts

Reductionism is any of several related philosophical ideas regarding the associations between phenomena which can be described in terms of other simpler or more fundamental phenomena.

Eternalism is a philosophical approach to the ontological nature of time, which takes the view that all existence in time is equally real, as opposed to presentism or the growing block universe theory of time, in which at least the future is not the same as any other time. Some forms of eternalism give time a similar ontology to that of space, as a dimension, with different times being as real as different places, and future events are "already there" in the same sense other places are already there, and that there is no objective flow of time. It is sometimes referred to as the "block time" or "block universe" theory due to its description of space-time as an unchanging four-dimensional "block", as opposed to the view of the world as a three-dimensional space modulated by the passage of time.

Mind–body dualism philosophical theory that mental phenomena are non-physical and that matter exists independently of mind

Mind–body dualism, or mind–body duality, is a view in the philosophy of mind that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical, or that the mind and body are distinct and separable. Thus, it encompasses a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter, and between subject and object, and is contrasted with other positions, such as physicalism and enactivism, in the mind–body problem.

A category mistake, or category error, or categorical mistake, or mistake of category, is a semantic or ontological error in which things belonging to a particular category are presented as if they belong to a different category, or, alternatively, a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property. An example is the metaphor "time crawled", which if taken literally is not just false but a category mistake. To show that a category mistake has been committed one must typically show that once the phenomenon in question is properly understood, it becomes clear that the claim being made about it could not possibly be true.

In mathematics, logic, and philosophy, a property is a characteristic of an object; a red object is said to have the property of redness. The property may be considered a form of object in its own right, able to possess other properties. A property, however, differs from individual objects in that it may be instantiated, and often in more than one thing. It differs from the logical/mathematical concept of class by not having any concept of extensionality, and from the philosophical concept of class in that a property is considered to be distinct from the objects which possess it. Understanding how different individual entities can in some sense have some of the same properties is the basis of the problem of universals. The terms attribute and quality have similar meanings.

In philosophy, emergentism is the belief in emergence, particularly as it involves consciousness and the philosophy of mind, and as it contrasts with reductionism. A property of a system is said to be emergent if it is a new outcome of some other properties of the system and their interaction, while it is itself different from them. Emergent properties are not identical with, reducible to, or deducible from the other properties. The different ways in which this independence requirement can be satisfied lead to variant types of emergence.

David Malet Armstrong Australian philosopher

David Malet Armstrong, often D. M. Armstrong, was an Australian philosopher. He is well known for his work on metaphysics and the philosophy of mind, and for his defence of a factualist ontology, a functionalist theory of the mind, an externalist epistemology, and a necessitarian conception of the laws of nature. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008.

Property dualism philosophical theory (there is only 1 kind of substance in reality (matter),but that substance has 2 types of properties, material and mental);view that non-physical, mental properties (beliefs,desires,emotions) inhere in physical substances (brains)

Property dualism describes a category of positions in the philosophy of mind which hold that, although the world is composed of just one kind of substance—the physical kind—there exist two distinct kinds of properties: physical properties and mental properties. In other words, it is the view that non-physical, mental properties inhere in or supervene upon certain physical substances. As a doctrine, 'property dualism' is epistemic, as distinct from ontic.

An intrinsic property is a property that an object or a thing has of itself, independently of other things, including its context. extrinsic property is a property that depends on a thing's relationship with other things. For example, mass is an intrinsic property of any physical object, whereas weight is an extrinsic property that varies depending on the strength of the gravitational field in which the respective object is placed. As such, the question of intrinsicality and extrinsicality in empirically observable objects is a significant field of study in ontology, the branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being.

Sydney Shoemaker is an American philosopher. He is the Emeritus Susan Linn Sage Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University and is well-known for his contributions to philosophy of mind and metaphysics.

Anomalous monism is a philosophical thesis about the mind–body relationship. It was first proposed by Donald Davidson in his 1970 paper "Mental Events". The theory is twofold and states that mental events are identical with physical events, and that the mental is anomalous, i.e. under their mental descriptions, relationships between these mental events are not describable by strict physical laws. Hence, Davidson proposes an identity theory of mind without the reductive bridge laws associated with the type-identity theory. Since the publication of his paper, Davidson has refined his thesis and both critics and supporters of anomalous monism have come up with their own characterizations of the thesis, many of which appear to differ from Davidson's.

Metaphysical naturalism is a philosophical worldview which holds that there is nothing but natural elements, principles, and relations of the kind studied by the natural sciences. Methodological naturalism is a philosophical basis for science, for which metaphysical naturalism provides only one possible ontological foundation. Broadly, the corresponding theological perspective is religious naturalism or spiritual naturalism. More specifically, metaphysical naturalism rejects the supernatural concepts and explanations that are part of many religions.

Philosophy of mind branch of philosophy on the nature of the mind

Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology, nature, and relationship of the mind to the body. The mind–body problem is a paradigm issue in philosophy of mind, although other issues are addressed, such as the hard problem of consciousness, and the nature of particular mental states. Aspects of the mind that are studied include mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness, the ontology of the mind, the nature of thought, and the relationship of the mind to the body.

Brian Ellis is an Emeritus Professor in the philosophy department at La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia, and Professional Fellow in philosophy at the University of Melbourne. He was the Editor of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy for twelve years. He is one of the major proponents of the New Essentialist school of philosophy of science.

Philosophy of color

Within the philosophy of color, there is a dispute between color realism, the view that colors are physical properties that objects possess, and color fictionalism, a species of error theory viewing colors according to which there are no such physical properties that objects possess.

In philosophy, naturalism is the "idea or belief that only natural laws and forces operate in the world." Adherents of naturalism assert that natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behavior of the natural universe, that the changing universe at every stage is a product of these laws.


  1. Max Kistler; Bruno Gnassounou, eds. (2016). Dispositions and causal powers. Routledge. ISBN   9781315577616. OCLC   952728282.
  2. [Shoemaker, S., 1980, ‘Causality and Properties’, in P. van Inwagen (ed.), Time and Cause: Essays Presented to Richard Taylor, Dordrecht: Reidel, 109–135.]
  3. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dispositions
  4. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dispositions
  5. [Hume, D. (1748)An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Oxford: ClarendonPress 1975, ed. L.A. Selby-Bigge and P.H. Nidditch.]
  6. Armstrong, D. M. (1996). Dispositions : a debate. Routledge. ISBN   0415144329. OCLC   33898477.
  7. Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1803
  8. Catholic Dictionary, Sacramental dispositions.