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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 59, Issue 4, December 2019

James Orr
Pages 411-426

No God, No Powers
Classical Theism and Pandispositionalist Laws

One common feature of debates about the best metaphysical analysis of putatively lawful phenomena is the suspicion that nomic realists who locate the modal force of such phenomena in quasi-causal necessitation relations between universals are working with a model of law that cannot convincingly erase its theological pedigree. Nancy Cartwright distills this criticism into slogan form: no God, no laws. Some have argued that a more plausible alternative for nomic realists who reject theism is to ground laws of nature in the fundamental dispositional properties or “pure powers” of physical objects. This article argues that for all its advantages over deflationary and rival realist accounts, a pandispositionalist account of law cuts against the commitment to metaphysical naturalism that its supporters almost always presuppose. It then examines and rejects a Platonic version of this account before elaborating and advancing a theistic alternative that is more theoretically powerful and more metatheoretically parsimonious. In slogan form: no God, no powers.

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